Davison County Commission and treasurer at odds againHiring request shot down ahead of busy time for county office.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
With an employee leaving and tax collection season right around the corner, Davison County Treasurer Brenda Veldheer pleaded with the county commissioners Tuesday at the courthouse for permission to advertise for job applicants.
No dice. Short one commissioner’s vote, Veldheer’s request died with a 2-2 tie.
Veldheer told the commissioners that a Deputy III job vacancy will be created when Deputy I Bridget Larson leaves Sept. 4 to take another job. Staffer Susan Punt will move into the Deputy I slot and Bernice Houska will remain as Deputy II. Without a replacement, the office will have just three staff members, including herself, as it moves into its busiest season, Veldheer explained.
“I’d like to get this done as soon as possible so we can have someone trained in time for the busy season in October and November,” she told the commissioners.
Commissioner Gerald Weiss agreed. “I believe we should advertise. I don’t want to hold the taxpayers back,” he said.
“Thank you, Gerald,” said Veldheer, “because that’s exactly what would happen. We have a busy tax season right around the corner.”
Commissioners Denny Kiner and Weiss voted in favor of advertising for applicants to get the hiring process moving, but Commission Chairman John Claggett and Commissioner Kim Weitala voted against advertising for the pending opening. Since Commissioner Jerry Fischer was absent from Tuesday’s meeting on personal business, the motion died.
“This puts an undue burden on the people of Davison County,” said Veldheer, who predicted long lines for tax payments and vehicle registrations unless the job is filled.
Veldheer, who was defeated in the June 5 Republican primary election by former employee Christie Gunkel, is a lame duck treasurer. There are no challengers registered for the Nov. 6 general election, which means Gunkel will become the new treasurer in January.
Veldheer expressed frustration after being thwarted, a second time, in her efforts to run her office. The commissioners initially refused to let Veldheer hire a replacement when she fired Gunkel. They later relented.
“I don’t understand where John Claggett is coming from,” Veldheer said after Tuesday’s commission meeting. “It makes no sense to not get someone hired for this position.”
Claggett said he only learned of the vacancy Tuesday, but the job opening, in fact, had been published Friday as part of the commission’s official agenda.
“We don’t have to deal with it at this minute,” he said. “It makes sense for us to think about it for a bit.”
Weitala said the Treasurer’s Office is efficient, “and they will be fine with three people when the time comes. When you’re looking for new employment it’s not just ‘hurry up and get someone in.’ As a group, I think discussion is needed.”
Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Taylor said the treasurer can hire the deputies she needs. “They serve at her pleasure — but they don’t get paid unless the commission allows for it in the budget.”
Veldheer said she has money in her budget for advertising purposes and will check with Taylor if she can legally spend those funds, without commission approval, to advertise for a new deputy.
Christie Gunkel said she hasn’t been consulted about the staff changes.
“I’d heard Bridget was leaving, but no one has asked me about anything,” Gunkel said. “It would be awesome if I could be part of (the hiring process). I would love to be in the office and helping right now.”
Gunkel said she continues to recover from a minor stroke she suffered following a chiropractic adjustment.
“I’m taking physical therapy twice a week and my neurologist said I should make close to a full recovery.”
In other business Tuesday, Register of Deed Deb Young asked for permission to spend about $5,000 for archival sleeves and bindings to preserve 19th century county records and deeds once they have been removed from their original binders and digitally scanned.
Claggett recommended researching other suppliers prior to purchasing the needed supplies and Young complied. No decision was made.
Young, who is a member of the 15-member South Dakota Association of County Officials’ “E-recording Task Force,” told the commissioners her group is investigating ways to digitally transmit deeds and other real property title documents.
“There’s a movement to make the process uniform across all states,” Young said. Such systems, which would take the place of mailing and delivering documents, are already used in 806 counties nationwide.
Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa all have provisions for the e-recording of such documents.
“It’s a new concept and something South Dakota needs,” she said, but laws first need to be passed and systems developed to make certain digitally transmitted documents are valid and secure. Finalizing the required laws and other details will take about two to three years, Young estimated.
Also Tuesday, the commissioners:
• Were told by County Maintenance Supervisor Mark Ruml that he has received no bids to date on the shower repair project at the county jail.
• Were informed by Ruml that PCB cleanup is complete at the east end of the Central Electric building at 1420 N. Main St., but the area must be re-tested to confirm the cleanup before the county can complete its long-pending purchase of the facility.
• Learned that negotiations continue between Central Electric and its insurer for hail repairs to the roof of the building.