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Jim Tait 02/01-02/28/17

home : news : oneida county August 22, 2017

3/17/2017 7:27:00 AM
Oneida County talks meeting procedures at admin meeting

Nick Sabato
River News reporter

The Oneida County Board of Supervisors received mandatory training in regards to open-meetings laws in February.

Some of the training information by Lori Lubinsky of Axley Brynelson was found to be inaccurate, particularly in relation to quorums.

At Monday's administration committee meeting, which is always posted as a joint meeting with the labor relations and employee services committee because the two committees share three members - Dave Hintz, Ted Cushing and Billy Fried - the topic of quorums came up again.

Hintz proposed devising a plan for meetings where supervisors wish to attend, but are not on that committee.

At the planning and development committee public hearing in Rhinelander earlier this month, Robb Jensen wished to attend, but could not because it could have created a quorum for two different committees and was not posted ahead of time.

"I've heard of counties having a 48-hour rule, where supervisors contact the county clerk or committee chair," Hintz said.

One idea was that county clerk Tracy Hartman would keep track of which supervisors serve on which committee, and if a supervisors chooses to attend a meeting, they would contact her in advance to ensure that it is properly posted if it creates a quorum.

"We're just trying to figure out a way to give the most notice to the people and the legally required notice to your constituents that there may be a quorum of another committee in attendance," corporation counsel Brian Desmond said.

Revising agendas was also discussed. Some counties - such as Vilas - use uniform agendas for each committee, but Oneida does not, which has caused some complaints.

Ideas are going to be drawn up to put these procedures in place and the committee hopes to approve it at the next meeting.

Expense procedures

While the county is looking into developing procedures for its meetings, there may need to be other procedures put into place.

The Oneida County Sheriff's Department has undergone scrutiny for staff misbehaving while out of town for training seminars or conferences, most notably with the Lee Lech case.

At last week's public safety meeting, Fried asked Desmond if there was a way to know if county employees actually went to the conferences they claimed to be attending.

It was a fair question for Fried to ask, but it is also a question that should be asked of the supervisors, who are not only paid mileage and meals, but receive a per diem for attending.

"A person turns in an expense report and they sign that they attended that," Hintz said. "But we do not have a process where we verify that [a supervisor] went to that conference and actively participated and went to 90 percent of the meetings."

Hintz felt it was a fair question to ask, but also didn't know how to verify that a supervisor did attend those meetings.

On top of that, it is also fair to ask, if so many county employees - whether it's corporation counsel or a supervisor - why are so many mistakes made and laws not followed?

At the public safety meeting, Desmond and another member of his team were approved to attend conferences out of county.

For supervisors, if they are attending meetings, why is there such a struggle to understand and follow open-meetings and open-records laws? Often times, basic meeting procedures are unknown to some supervisors.

"That's a fair question to ask and you'd have to see what type of training they received," Hintz said. "You'd have to see if that training covered any of those issues and you're really questioning the value of the training. Every supervisor that wants to attend a conference has to be approved and you have to look at the level of mistakes we made. The open-records and open-meetings thing is something we're addressing and make a good-faith effort to improve in."

From Jan. 1, 2016 through March 14, 2017, Oneida County supervisors were paid $108,140.92 in total expenses.

The bulk of that total came from a total of $75,730 in per diems. A supervisor is paid $40 per meeting and conference attended, while the chairman of a committee is paid $50 per meeting as the chairman.

A total of $31,696.61 was paid in mileage expenses, as supervisors are paid for mileage from their house to a meeting or to a conference at a rate of 54 cents per mile in 2016 and $0.535 per mile in 2017.

Hintz received $3,600 in 2016 as an annual salary as the chairman of the county board and has already been paid $900 for 2017.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nsabato@rivernewsonline.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.

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