Crow Wing County Board members suggested Mark Liedl, Land Services director, may be a good option as interim director of the county’s community services department.
Commissioner Paul Thiede told the board Tuesday hiring the next community services department head will be a key decision. Current department head Beth Wilms recently gave her notice and will leave in about two weeks. The county received nine applications for the job but was considering extending the March 2 date listed as the deadline for first consideration.
“This is going to be, no doubt, an extended candidate search,” said Tami Laska, human resources director. “It’s likely this position will be open for some time.”
Administrator Tim Houle said a meeting was scheduled with the department’s management team and he cautioned against taking action before he had a chance to meet with staff as previously scheduled. But commissioners said this way Houle could tell staff members about the board’s idea. Liedl was not present and Chairman Doug Houge said perhaps Liedl’s thoughts on the matter may be good to check as well.
“Not to say this is the Land Services Department part two,” said Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom. “I’d like him to bring his sensibilities and outsider view.”
That way, Nystrom said, a busy staff could manage already full plates. The board also discussed who would sit on the interview panel with Nystrom, Thiede and Commissioner Rosemary Franzen all expressing an interest, although typically just two commissioners take part. Nystrom suggested she could sit on the panel with Franzen. Thiede said he wasn’t willing to step aside. A community member was also expected to join the panel, as was the case when Wilms was hired. Houge suggested involving someone outside Brainerd, adding there were qualified people beyond its city limits.
Franzen said she wanted to see all the applicants for the position and not just those chosen for finalists. That led to a longer discussion on candidate information and how it could be safely sent to commissioners with a concern for data privacy of candidates not chosen as finalists.
“I want access before that,” Franzen said. As a Baxter city council member in the past, Franzen said the elected officials looked at all applications and then came to a decision as a group. Franzen said she wanted to see who applied.
Houle said he was concerned how that could be viewed if commissioners knew candidates personally and the potential dicey situation of favoritism. Houle advised having a neutral third party advance the candidates.
Nystrom pointed to quality hires in the past using the current system and said she didn’t know why the board was suggesting taking away from the human resources department expertise. Anyone who wants information on candidates may ask for it, Nystrom said of the board members. That is how the board left the matter.
In other business, the board:
Approved a settlement with the Teamster’s Local 346, representing the licensed supervisory unit, after meeting in closed session for labor negotiations.
The county is in negotiations with all its bargaining units, proposing a performance-based pay system instead of cost-of-living increases and annual automatic step increases. The county’s leadership and non-union employees have made the transition to performance-based pay, Laska reported. With Tuesday’s settlement, the Teamster’s Local 346 and the county agreed to a wage adjustment without step increases. Laska reported the adoption of the proposed pay includes a 15 percent reduction in minimum pay rates in 2012 and a 2-percent wage adjustment for 2012. The settlement includes a 2-percent wage increase in 2013. Other parts of the agreement: adoption of a half-day Christmas Eve holiday; a two-year pilot transferring up to one week of accrued paid time off to cash annually for those who have banked 200 or more hours; a letter of cooperation reinforcing the bargaining unit’s commitment to work with the county to develop a performance-based pay initiative.
Heard the county is considering taking a step back from looking at using iPads for government business after staff looked into using the devices and may consider other tablets or devices. Houle said the iPads may work well for the board members. Nystrom noted Cass County commissioners already have iPads.
Heard social worker case loads are continuing to increase, stressing staff. Dale Parks, financial assistance supervisor, reported the average case load was 234 in 2009 and increased to 283 in 2011. The annual increase last year was about 15.52 percent. Parks said there is more situational poverty as people lose jobs. Those people are new to poverty, Parks said.
Houle cut Parks short multiple times questioning why the new case banking system wasn’t making more of a difference as the county is more than 30 days behind on cases. Parks said the county started the system in November and was the first county to combine it with another web-based management system software. There has been a learning curve and tweaking, but Parks said they are making progress.
Commissioner Phil Trusty was absent.