Board brings strength of diversity to decisions

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

Wisconsin Act 10 has reached the Sheboygan County Board. Act 10 was legislation which changed the way public employee grievances could be handled.

With the major restrictions and limitations put on public employees and their unions, collective bargaining no longer provided or allowed agreements to be handled as an issue by a state arbitrator.

With the new Act 10 law, resolution of a grievance could end up going to the highest level government - in this case it was the Sheboygan County Board.

On Tuesday, January 21, at the end of the regular monthly meeting of the Sheboygan County Board, it was asked to review, act and decide on a personnel issue - so a rare closed meeting was held.

While I cannot discuss any of the specifics that took place during the closed door proceedings, I can say the process was handled by the county’s legal staff. The personnel issue was covered by county staff and by the employee in question.

All county board members were provided with extensive background material - including work evaluations and other information. The closed session took about two hours.

While Adam Payne, County Administrator, suggested in a comment to The Sheboygan Press that the County Board did not feel “comfortable being the final decision-maker to terminate someone’s employment .... So they came to a compromise position last night.”

While I agree with Payne that many of the board members may have felt uncomfortable about the process and position they were pushed into by Wisconsin Act 10, I would question his use of the word “compromise”.

The Sheboygan Board Supervisors I know are not afraid of making a tough decision. As a group they tend try to support the county’s position whenever possible, but they certainly are able and willing to make up their own minds when they see fit. There are no “shrinking violets” in this group.

Let me give you an example of the diversity, skill level, and independence of its members. The Board is made up of a retired teacher/pilot, a number of business people (financial, stock market, building/roofing, housing inspector, publisher/ads, garden/tree business, child care), retired Kohler Company specialist (including travel to China and beyond), two farmers, construction trades, retired labor leader, retired investigator - Deputy Sheriff Department, firefighter supervisor, factory worker - foundry, township employee, a number of elected township officials, bus driver and more.

Some members have serviced their country in the armed services; many are volunteer leaders and on board of directors for different groups.

This supervisor has taken the time to tour the Sheboygan County Jail twice, traveled with a county patrol officer for a day, interviewed the former sheriff on the extent of our law enforcement responsibilities, and spent time with deputy sheriff’s investigative staff and have toured the evidence room.

In addition, I’ve carried law enforcement credentials working at Terry Andrae State Park, worked seven years for the Wisconsin State Corrections Department and served four years in the United States Army. And, I have served 12 years in the Wisconsin State Legislature.

As a group, as difficult as some issue may be, we have no problem making a firm decision.

The vote to reinstate the employee passed by a vote of 16 to 7. To suggest that this group of supervisors, as suggested by Sheriff Todd Priebe, was “trying to please both sides” was wrong.

These are honest, tough-minded men and women. And when they voted “Aye” or “Nay” they were not trying to compromise. They understand what compromise is. They were voting what they thought was fair and correct. And that should be a reminder and lesson for the sheriff, county administrator and department heads.

Readers Comments

Hey Jim Baumgart if the
Submitted by (not verified) on Tue, 2014-01-28 06:38.
Hey Jim Baumgart if the decision was between letting a dog live or killing it with poison, a COMPROMISE to make it very sick with a medium amount of poison would be 100% WRONG. Right??? Sheriff Todd Priebe called it right, “trying to please both sides”. Under all your flowery pontification, Your assertion that this Compromise was somehow anything more than a weak minded and lack of leadership and lack of conviction for the public good by the board is totally WRONG. In your sick whiney way your are doing nothing other than complaining because YOU had to take responsibility for a decision you would previously have deferred to an arbitrator. That responsibility is what Act 10 affords you along with the tools to directly make the decisions in the publics best interest. That would be ME, US, you know, the people who have paid you for all those years of pontificating you mention above!!! In this case the County Board FAILED miserably to meet its responsibility to serve the public interest and support its Sheriff Todd Priebe. Shame!!!!!!
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