Holiday time-off policy change for Davison County gets dissected
Commission has discussed straying from following state's lead on holiday time-off
Numerous Davison County employees and departments spoke out Tuesday against a potential county commission plan that would change the county’s policy on paid holidays.
The commission, in recent weeks, has discussed changing the policy to no longer automatically observe dates deemed as state holidays by the governor. The issue has received some level of discussion in each of the last two meetings and no action was taken on Tuesday.
On Nov. 24, Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins suggested to the commission that they make county employees aware that the issue would be discussed at their next meeting on Dec. 1. On Tuesday, representatives of at least six county departments voiced their preference for leaving the holiday policy as is.
The issue has varied by governor but crystalized earlier this year when Gov. Kristi Noem gave all state employees under the authority of the governor’s office “administrative leave” for April 10 and April 13 — the Friday preceding and the Monday following Easter. As of Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode noted recently, those are religious holidays (in the case of Good Friday), but are not normally observed government holidays.
In that case, most county employees receive paid time off for those days. In the case of the Davison County Jail and Sheriff’s office — departments that don’t close for holidays — working employees receive holiday pay. Jail Administrator Don Radel estimated that there have been between two and six additional holiday dates between 2017 and 2020, depending on how the calendar falls, with usually 264 hours of holiday pay per additional holiday. He estimated that about $31,000 in additional holiday pay was administered in 2019 for the department. The other department that sometimes collects holiday pay is the Highway Department, if they are needed to clear roads of snow on a holiday, for example.
Davison County’s Personnel Policy Manual, last updated in 2013, observes 10 state and federal holidays during the year, plus “such other days as may be proclaimed by the Davison County Commission, the governor of the state of South Dakota, or the president of the United States.”
Another potential issue comes with the Davison County Treasurer’s Office, which works closely with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle program and software. If the state offices are closed and the county offices are open, county Treasurer David Beintema said, county employees locally can’t call the state office for assistance.
“I’m not advocating that as soon as the state closes, we close. But we do run into a lot of issues with technical support when the state closes. … “When we follow the dates that they’re taking off, it prevents issues on our county’s side,” Beintema said.
Bode also noted that the county can do a better job of making clear to its constituents which offices are closed by a state closure, such as the Clerk of Courts office, the Community Health office, and the local SDSU Extension/4-H Adviser.
Time is running out to make any changes ahead of 2021 and it’s likely no changes would take place before 2022. That’s because Davison County and the union representing the county’s jail employees have agreed to a one-year extension of the current union contract, with new cost of living pay increases for 2021. Any other revisions, including changing the holiday language, would require reaching a new agreement. Without the short-term agreement, the contract is otherwise scheduled to expire on Dec. 31.
HR talk remains terse for county leaders
The commission also continued its discussion about a potential human resources role for Davison County, with no decisions made once again on Tuesday.
Beintema said the request for a dedicated HR person seemed out of place for the county considering requests for additional employees in various departments have been turned away recently by the commission.
“I think we need to see how we can make it better,” he said. “If that’s making it full-time, fine. But first, we need to develop what needs to be improved and fixed.”
Tuesday’s talk also involved shooting down a $175,000 figure that was included in the proposed minutes from the Nov. 24 meeting regarding two new positions for human resources. Commissioners said it wasn’t clear where that figure came from but that it was inaccurate.
“We didn’t say we were going to spend $175,000,” Bode said.
There was also more frustration between Auditor Susan Kiepke and the commissioners on the issue. Kiepke’s office currently oversees the current HR duties, and Kiepke abruptly left the Nov. 24 meeting out of frustration over the topic. On Tuesday, she said the discussions have been good but characterized the attempt to change the county’s HR structure as “the destruction of my office.”
Commissioner John Claggett told Kiepke she was “jumping to some conclusions that we haven’t gotten to.”
“I think we’re singing the same song,” he said, before later adding. “We have not said anything about how this has to come about.”
The commissioners also did not approve Kiepke’s version of the Nov. 24 meeting minutes, something that is normally a formality at the start of each meeting. In particular, the commissioners took issue with the lack of description of how the HR topic was discussed with her gone and took issue with the description that Kiepke “felt she was being ambushed.”
“The minutes have to be factual, they can’t be based on feelings,” Claggett said.
“The overall discussion about HR has been in the fiber of what we’ve been talking about for a year,” Commissioner Kim Weitala added. “To say she was ambushed is extreme.”