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Auditor/Treasurer files suit against Stevens County over salary, budget

MORRIS -- Stevens County Auditor/Treasurer Neil Wiese has filed a civil suit against Stevens County, alleging that the Stevens County Board of Commissioners set his salary and the budget for his office in an "arbitrary, capricious, oppressive" manner with "unreasonable disregard" for Wiese's performance and the responsibilities and duties of his office.

According to Stevens County Attorney Aaron Jordan, the statute for governing the auditor/treasurer's office requires that the matter be expedited, which means the lawsuit could be resolved within a month or two.

In this case, a judge will have to decide if the decision regarding salary and budget was made arbitrarily and, if so, order the Stevens County Board of Commissioners to reconsider the salary and budget allocation. The case will be heard by Judge David Mennis of Swift County.

During the final meeting of 2013, the board voted 3-2 to approve a salary of $72,066 for the auditor/treasurer, a 1.5 percent increase over the 2012 salary.

The Stevens County Attorney and Stevens County Recorder, along with all county department heads and non-union employees, received 2.5 percent raises for 2013.

During a special meeting in November, Wiese told the board that his proposed budget for 2013 included a salary increase of over 10 percent over his 2012 salary of $71,101, about $13,000 total.

During the meeting, Wiese presented the board with salary comparisons with other auditors, treasurers, and auditor/treasurers in the region to make his case. Although Wiese acknowledged that a comparison might be difficult, since Pope and Stevens counties are the only local counties with a combined auditor/treasurer.

"I'd just like to get in line with what similar-sized counties are paying their people compared to what I'm getting," said Wiese.

According to figures Wiese presented to the board at their November meeting, Pope County's auditor/treasurer received a salary of $78,562 for 2012. The auditors in Swift, Wilkin, Grant and Big Stone counties received salaries between $71,332 (Grant) and $86,070 (Swift). The treasurers in those counties received between $59,595 (Big Stone) and $75,256 (Wilkin).

Between 2010 and 2012, the budgeted expenses for the auditor/treasurer's office dropped from $403,723 to $372,671. The final 2013 budget for the auditor/treasurer's office, which was approved on Dec. 18, 2012, included expenses of $358,189.

Wiese was out of the office this week and unavailable for comment before the Sun Tribune deadline on Friday.