Highlighted by a storm out from one county official during a meeting Tuesday, Davison County leadership appears divided on finding a plan to handle human resources in the county.
The Davison County Commission scheduled a discussion about human resources in the county for its Tuesday meeting, including having a consultant on hand to talk about the usual steps to start a new department.
As the topic was beginning to gain discussion, Auditor Susan Kiepke, whose department is responsible for handling HR matters under the current format, expressed her displeasure about where she felt the talk was headed.
"I thought this was just a discussion, not a creation," Kiepke said, before leaving the meeting room.
About five minutes later, she left the building altogether and was later replaced by Deputy Auditor Jim Matthews to take her duties in keeping the meeting minutes.
In a prepared report handed out by Kiepke prior to the discussion, she outlined a number of items she believes are being handled well and some areas for potential improvement. That included successes onboarding new employees, knowing benefit and retirement changes, assisting department heads with hiring and employee concerns and organizing safety information sessions. Areas identified for improvement included attending more training sessions, creating monthly department head meetings and using an outside HR firm's subscription service that would provide on-call support, among other things.
"I believe HR is in good hands for Davison County," wrote Kiepke, who has been auditor since 2007. "I believe we are doing our best for the employees. We have built a (rapport) with most departments."
Over the last year, the county has discussed outsourcing its HR or trying to address it with a part-time person, or potentially try to purchase services on an as-needed basis.
But in September, the commissioners were on board to hire a new full-time HR person, with Chairwoman Brenda Bode saying the decision came after extensive study and finding that the county needs an on-site, full-time person, especially given that Davison County is one of the largest counties in the state without a full-time staff HR person.
A discussion about human resources for the county was on the agenda for Tuesday and Bode reiterated that no decisions were going to be made during the meeting.
Rosemary (Smith) McCaffrey, a Mitchell native who recently moved back to the community and has experience in human resources setup, said creating Davison County's new HR department would require looking at every other department from "ground zero" and looking at what their needs and holes are. She was invited to the meeting by Commissioner Kim Weitala, the board's liaison for the HR issue.
"Human Resources and that department is not there to step on anyone's toes. It's there to help the existing structures and the people in place," McCaffrey said.
McCaffrey said some issues can include conflicts of interest over how workers compensation is handled, sensitive data issues and working from home.
"It's a veritable treasure trove of things that can come up," McCaffrey said. "You have no idea what's happening until it's there and it's all laid out.
County Treasurer Dave Beintema said he's not convinced that the county needs a full-time HR person but that the biggest HR needs the county has are helping onboard new employees — with some of that needing to be done in private, he said — and regularly updating employees on what HR offers and what options are available to them. He said having a separate person, unaffiliated with another department to handle grievances is important.
"A lot of times your grievance will be against your supervisor, not your job itself," Beintema said. "You need to have a private place to go where those needs can be discussed. Right now, where we're lacking is where you need to go."
At the end of the conversation, Bode said she regretted that Kiepke didn't stay at the meeting, because she believes her opinion is important to how the new setup will take place.
"I regret that Susan does not see this as a discussion," Bode said. "We need to see this in that way. I hope she comes back to the table because she has a lot of experience and a lot she can offer us."