Douglas deputy auditor resigns in protest over department changesARMOUR — New Douglas County Auditor Gary Denke started his position Thursday without a deputy auditor.
By: Melanie Brandert, The Daily Republic
ARMOUR — New Douglas County Auditor Gary Denke started his position Thursday without a deputy auditor.
Deputy Auditor Kim Huebner resigned on Oct. 19, with her last day on Tuesday. Outgoing Auditor Diane Christensen read Huebner’s resignation letter, in which Huebner cited recent changes in department organization and professional practices that she said made her unable to continue working for the county.
Commission Chairwoman Karen Blume, of Armour, said the county commission would need to accept her resignation. She said Denke could appoint Huebner’s replacement, or he could advertise for the position.
County Commissioner Sue Denning, of Corsica, asked if Huebner would feel comfortable to stay on until Denke found a replacement.
“It’s kind of an unfortunate thing for the county to have a brand new auditor … (and be without) a deputy also,” she said. “I’m sure Gary would have appreciated some help from the deputy.”
Christensen, who recommended Huebner for the auditor job in her resignation letter, said the deputy auditor was upset that commissioners did not consult with her on the appointment of a new auditor.
Huebner’s resignation is the latest sign of fallout after the county commissioners decided to appoint Denke to replace Christensen, who resigned in September.
Christensen had submitted a new resignation on Oct. 5 after the commissioners’ vote, saying she wanted to resign immediately because she couldn’t support their decision to hire Denke. But she withdrew that resignation and stayed until Thursday, her last day, to work through the general election.
The friction started before State’s Attorney Craig Parkhurst received a complaint on Sept. 27 about a potential open-meetings law violation regarding the hiring of a replacement for Christensen. She said Blume told her and Huebner on Sept. 20 that the auditor’s position had been filled.
An attempt to reach Parkhurst Thursday afternoon on the status of the openmeetings investigation was unsuccessful.
Denke, who was sworn in during Thursday’s meeting, said he will advertise for a fulltime deputy auditor. He said afterward he hopes to have one hired by the month’s end.
Denning asked Christensen if she would stay on to train Denke further. Christensen replied she is encountering a hectic time in preparing for a move in a month and Thanksgiving, but said Denke could call her with questions.
Denke said he and Christensen have worked well together and he would welcome her help. He started in the office Oct. 25.
County commissioners also discussed a state Department of Public Safety Highway Safety Grant for which Sheriffelect Troy Strid, still a sheriff’s deputy, had applied but did not seek their approval.
The $10,000 grant was renewed for the 2011 federal fiscal year, which started Oct. 1.
Strid told commissioners that the grant was for overtime. Since the county had the grant, accidents and property damage have decreased from 53 accidents and $384,441 in property damage in 2007 to 12 accidents and $57,300 in property damage so far in 2010.
Blume noted that Strid signed for the grant on Sept. 16 and inquired whether the request should have gone to commissioners.
He replied that the request probably should have been presented to the board.
“That’s my fault,” Strid said, adding it was the same grant and the county had received prior approval.
Christensen said Strid won’t use the grant as of Jan. 1. He replied that a new deputy will use the grant funds when he takes over as sheriff.
“That’s why you should have discussed this before it was sent in,” Blume said.
Christensen noted that state law says all grant requests must be approved by county commissioners.
Strid said the state pays 100 percent of the grant for overtime, but a cost-share is needed for equipment purchases.
Commissioners approved the grant 5-0.
Strid also told the commission he wanted to start advertising for a new deputy. Because Strid lives in Corsica, Vice Chairman Ewald Fink asked that he consider the new deputy live in Delmont or Armour.