Guest column in the 11/1/05 Tomahawk Leader:
By E. Richard Simon
Lincoln County Board Chair
Supervisor District 21
The Lincoln County Board recently put an end to a long-standing dispute by paying a lump-sum settlement to the former Social Services Director, but not because it sought to hide something. In fact, the settlement was far less expensive than putting taxpayers and employees through an endless **** and cost of hearings – an ultimate cost that would likely be three times the dollars paid in the settlement.
The issue of voting and rescinding votes in the Social Service Committee is correct; however, the committee secretary and board vice-chair, Jim Alber (who was the lone dissenting vote on the committee) astutely filed his handwritten minutes with the County Clerk immediately after the meeting in question, so as not to jeopardize the county’s interests while the matter was pursued with the attorney general and until the minutes finally were corrected.
While the majority of the Social Services Committee supported the former director in the due process matter, most board supervisors only wanted a fair, legal hearing and a finding on the matter. That is where we ran into state bureaucracy. There was nothing hidden or secretive, unless you are talking about state government, of course.
Hidden in the Wisconsin Statutes and supported by the opinion of former Attorney General Jim Doyle, was a contrived legislative/legal process that gives full power to a small social services committee of the board, or in some cases, to a volunteer citizen’s board – and takes away the rights of the Board of Supervisors and the citizens of the county, when it comes to Social Services directors’ appointment and approval.
Even county legal advisors disagree about the law and the process. Apparently, Madison believed that an elected board of supervisors would not protect the interests of social needs within the state, particularly in small population counties, so it effectively blocked Lincoln County’s right to adjudicate such matters by giving power to a small committee, instead. Of course, that practice doesn’t apply in large communities, like Dane or Milwaukee county.