Vilas County’s newly-formed Civil Service Commission held its first meeting Thursday.
The creation of the new commission was approved unanimously by the Vilas County Board of Supervisors Nov. 13.
The board held a closed session to discuss the process for hiring four new corrections officer and a new jail sergeant.
During the closed session the commission reviewed the interview questions and written exam questions for the corrections officer and the jail sergeant. The panel was also introduced to the internal jail sergeant candidates.
Earlier this month the county board approved board Chairman Steve Favorite’s recommendations for the first five members of the new commission. They are Wally Obermann, Debra Preuss, Dan Meyer, Patrick Norris and James Sherwood. Obermann was appointed commission chairman and Preuss was appointed vice chairman.
The jail sergeant vacancy was created when the person who had held that position agreed to take a buyout as part of the county’s voluntary reduction in workforce program.
At an October meeting of the county’s Law Enforcement and Emergency Management Committee, jail administrator William Weiss presented an outline detailing the need to hire addition corrections staff. He told the committee the additional employees are needed due to the need to staff the monitor room in the master control area for a minimum of 16 hours per day, as noted in the 2010 and 2011 annual jail inspection reports prepared by Denise Ellis, as well as the PREA Prison Rape Elimination Act, that goes into effect Aug. 20, 2013.
State of Wisconsin Jail Inspector Denise Ellis explained to the committee at the same meeting that PREA is a Federal Act.
Ellis said the State of Wisconsin has to comply with the mandate or there will be a penalty of lost state aid from the federal government. In a contract situation with the State of Wisconsin, for housing DOC inmates, the county will have to meet the PREA Prison Rape Elimination Act requirements.
Reason for commission creation
The board’s action came just weeks after the county agreed to a $75,000 settlement with former county jail administrator Tim Evenson who had claimed he was unfairly fired after expressing reservations about the hiring of sheriff Frank Tomlanovich’s stepson as a jail employee despite the stepson having a criminal record. He had filed a lawsuit against the county and Tomlanovich over his firing. The lawsuit was dismissed as part of a settlement reached between the two sides.
Some county board supervisors earlier expressed support for the creation of the commission to prevent any future incidents in the sheriff’s department.
Tomlanovich had told board members before their final vote on the issue that he did not support the creation of the commission.
“They would be doing what we’ve been doing for years,” Tomlanovich said. “There’s no need to do what we’ve been doing already.”
Purpose of commission
The ordinance states the purpose of the commission is as follows:
“Vilas County is committed to bringing qualified individuals into county law enforcement work through a system of competitive examinations so as to provide that all civil service covered job classes are covered herein after provided shall be filled by appointment of the sheriff from a list of candidates who shall have received the highest ratings in the competitive examination process ... The interviews will conducted by the commission with the participation of the sheriff.”
The commission will conduct and oversee all applications, written exams, physical fitness testing and oral interviews.
The following job classes are under the civil service commission’s jurisdiction: chief deputy, jail administrator, captain, lieutenant, detective sergeant, deputy sheriff, jail sergeant, jail and all part-time and limited terms of employment (LTE) positions.”
The commission is made up of five area citizens who would be appointed by the county board chairman with confirmation by a majority vote of the county board.
Other important points in the proposal state:
• When an opening occurs it will be the responsibility of the sheriff to notify the human resources department and the commission.
• The commission shall certify to the sheriff the names of the three candidates standing highest on the list when the sheriff requests the same for the purpose of filling of a vacancy in the identified classes.
• The commission shall conduct all examinations, testing, interviews and evaluations for promotions in the department.
• The sheriff shall formulate and make available to all members of the department a policy manual, the violation of which may be cause for suspension, demotion, or dismissal.
• Any dispute with respect to interpretation of any sections and provisions of the ordinance establishing the commission shall be submitted to the commission for resolution.
• Sworn and non-sworn will have access to their group’s existing grievance policy and procedures.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.