NEWS

Supervisors could remove four more employees from auditor's office

Auditor Joel Miller had 52 in 2013, down to 17

The Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids.
The Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Two years ago, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller managed the equivalent of 52 full-time employees.

He may be down to 13 if the latest move by the Board of Supervisors strips four employees who handle the county’s payroll and accounts payable functions from Miller’s purview and transfers the duties to the county’s human resources or budget and finance offices instead.

Miller said Monday the supervisors are bent on his “destruction.”

“If we can’t control you, we’ll destroy you,” he said, summing up what he said is the supervisors’ attitude after yet another back-and-forth at Monday’s informal supervisors’ meeting.

Supervisor Brent Oleson said he initiated the effort to conduct an analysis of the county’s payroll and accounts payable functions to see if the work can be done more efficiently under the human resources office or finance and budget offices, both of which report to the supervisors and not Miller.

Oleson said there was “no predetermined outcome.” He said supervisors have an obligation to find operational efficiencies regardless if he or others on the board “have problems with the auditor,” he said.

Oleson said the supervisors have conducted reviews of other county operations, including in the treasurer’s office and sheriff’s office, and so the review of another piece of Miller’s operation was not exceptional.

Supervisor Ben Rogers said the county has saved some $40,000 a year by moving the facilities management operation and its 32 employees two years ago from Miller’s office to the “watchful care” of the supervisors’ management.

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Garth Fagerbakke, who now directs the county’s facilities employees, said he expects to save more than $40,000 in the current budget year that ends June 30, savings achieved by cutting back on the use of private contractors that Miller had used, he said.

In the summer of 2013, the supervisors also moved three information technology employees from Miller’s oversight to theirs, and now, four more employees will make the same shift if the supervisors take over the payroll and accounts payable operations.

Supervisors will convene a team of department heads who report to the supervisors to review those functions. Supervisor Linda Langston said she wants the group to consider looking at how other public- and private-sector entities perform the duties.

Miller said he asked to be on the review team but was turned down.

Miller told supervisors Monday that Oleson threatened at the April 1 meeting to take more employees from his office after he raised questions about supervisors allowing the Prospect Meadows non-profit organization to occupy a county office without a lease or insurance.

Supervisors are strong supporters of Prospect Meadows and its proposal to build a baseball complex on county land at County Home Road and Highway 13.

“It certainly looks like retaliation to me,” Miller said of the new review. “It certainly looks like a vendetta to me. It certainly feels like one.”

Miller said state law assigns him the duties to maintain the supervisors “books,” and those duties will continue even if supervisors remove more employees from him.

His office manages elections and real estate transfers, records supervisors meetings and certifies the property tax list and local government budgets, among other duties.

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