Animal cruelty event hits nerve with county officials
Davison County leaders warned a planned seminar in September on investigating animal abuse should not address livestock or farm animals
The Davison County Commission cast skepticism on a request for animal cruelty investigation training event for law enforcement to be held in Mitchell in September.
The event is being organized by Gail Hahne, who leads the local nonprofit Purr N’ Ruff Animal Rescue, and hosted by the Davison County Sheriff’s Office and Humane Society of the United States. It will be held at the Davison County Fairgrounds.
Davison County Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said she was skeptical about the county endorsing the event without knowing what would be discussed, and said she didn’t want to have an event that was attacking local livestock agricultural producers. Bode said a number of local producers called her concerned about the event.
“This is an agricultural county. We are fortunate and we have good animal caretakers and we want to make this is something that wouldn’t do something negative to that industry,” she said.
Hahne said the event is meant to draw attention to illegal animal abuse and the laws that are involved, along with filing cruelty complaints and filing charges. It is open to law enforcement, animal control and code enforcement agencies, along with humane investigators, veterinarians and prosecutors. She said it was meant to focus on puppy mills, dogfighting and animal cruelty with dogs and cats.
Davison County Chief Deputy Steve Harr said the sheriff’s office agreed to be a host for the event because the National Sheriff’s Association has endorsed events like these held by Humane Society.
But Harr and other commissioners issued clear warnings, too.
“The sheriff and I talked about this and it’s going to be a strictly dogs and cats seminar, and if it’s not, I’m going to personally put a stop to it,” Harr said.
“As long as people know our agricultural producers are off limits,” added Commissioner Denny Kiner.
County discusses outsourcing some HR duties
The commissioners also discussed outsourcing some of its human resources duties to a Sioux Falls-based firm that specializes in that work.
The commission heard a presentation from Alternative HRD, which is based in Sioux Falls and says it has 25-plus years of experience working as an independent firm for private companies and government entities in handling human resources matters. The company says it can help with managing compensation, benefits, staffing, training, performance, safety and compliance.
Bode said she was piqued by Alternative HRD’s offerings because it has worked with regular businesses and with governmental entities. That includes the cities of Baltic, Brandon and Canton, along with Clay and McCook counties.
“It’s something that we’ve had in our long-range plans for quite some time, and it really gives us a chance to look at all employees regardless of their level fairly,” Bode said. “By using a third-party, they can take an outside view and they can keep us up to date on the laws and the regulations that are out there.”
The county’s government, which includes about 100 employees, ranges from elected officials and at-will employees and part-time employees, and some who are union employees.
No decisions were made Tuesday, and the commission directed Alternative HRD officials to deliver a fee schedule of what its offerings cost. Bode said she believes potentially outsourcing some human resource work could be a cost-savings measure, and hopes that the county could purchase services on an as-needed basis.
One item commissioners discussed taking part in was a Human Resource Risk Assessment, which looks at an organization in 12 areas based on its policies, procedures, forms and files. That is meant to address three key areas: employing practices in compliance with federal and state labor laws, attracting, retaining and developing staff, and implementing consistent management across all departments.
Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke, who is currently the county’s primary employee tasked with handling human resources matters, said that she believes the county is doing a decent job with handling issues. She said the county could do better with professional development and management training, and said understanding possible weak spots could be beneficial.
Karen DeLange, a human resources consultant for the firm, said the company would continue to work through the auditor’s office to identify issues or places where training would make sense.
“HR has continued to become more and more important and continued to get more and more complicated,” she said. “And that means there’s a different view of what organizations and employees both expect.”
The commission also met for nearly an hour in executive session with Davison County Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Taylor, Santel CEO and General Manager Ryan Thompson and Tech Solutions’ Scott Beukelman regarding contractual matters. The segment with Thompson and Beukelman was about 20 minutes. No action was taken.
Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins reported that the county’s grant request for a grant from the South Dakota Department of Corrections’ Alternatives to Detention Support program to help fund a new position to work with the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative program. The funding is about $60,000 and will support the position for three years.
The commission expects meetings regarding budget requests to begin on July 2 to begin figuring how the 2020 county budget will shape up.