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Stevens County Commissioners appoint temporary auditor/treasurer

MORRIS – On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioner appointed a temporary auditor/treasurer to oversee next week’s primary election and made plans to interview qualified candidates to fill the remainder of Auditor/Treasurer Neil Wiese’s term.

Wiese’s last day with Stevens County is Aug. 8, four days before Minnesota’s primary election on Aug. 12.

To oversee the primary election, the board appointed former Swift County Auditor/Treasurer Byron Giese as temporary auditor/treasurer effective Monday, Aug. 11, until an auditor/treasurer is appointed to fill the remainder of Wiese’s term.

Under the contract, Giese will be on site in Stevens County on Aug. 11, 12 and 14 to help certify election results and review and sign all documents that need to be executed by the auditor/treasurer.

He will also coordinate with office staff to make sure the primary election and day-to-day operations continue uninterrupted.

Members of the board thanked Giese for stepping into help in the position on short notice.

Giese, who served as auditor/treasurer for 31 years, said he was stepping into help because former Stevens County Auditor/Treasurer Dick Bluth helped “tremendously” when he first took the position.

After advertising for an interim auditor/treasurer, the county received application materials from eight qualified individuals for the position. A screening committee will review the applications and recommend a slate of candidates for interviews and a skills test, Human Resources Director Janet Raguse said.

Commissioner Ron Staples cautioned the board about delaying a decision about the position.

“If this person should decide to run a write-in campaign, I think we want to try to get this person on staff as soon as we can,” said Staples. “We should try to get it done as quick as we can.”

Interviews for the position are scheduled for Monday, Aug. 25.

Staples also suggested it was time to start a discussion about whether the position of auditor/treasurer should be appointed rather than elected.

“With the situation we’ve been through, it might be the right time,” said Commissioner Bob Kopitzke.

County Attorney Aaron Jordan said he would review the process and provide information to the board.

On Tuesday, the board also reviewed Wiese’s decision to take two weeks of vacation at the end of his term.

At a special meeting on July 25, the board asked Jordan to review whether the county was obligated to pay Wiese for the vacation time.

Under state statute, elected officials do not accrue vacation or sick leave. However, statute also clearly states that an elected official’s salary can’t be cut because of absence for vacation or sickness, Jordan said.

“I would state that my legal opinion differs greatly from my personal opinion,” Jordan said. “I don’t agree with what Neil did. Personally I don’t think it’s moral or ethical to do that, but the law is very, very clear.”

Other business

  • The board received three applications for the open county engineer position. Interviews are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 28.
  • The board authorized Ennen and the county engineer to sign maintenance agreements for routine snow plowing and blading with 14 of the 16 townships in Stevens County. The five-year agreements, which have been given to township boards for review, are due by the end of September. The county has recieved six contracts so far. 
  • The board approved agreements with the cities of Morris, Alberta, Chokio, Donnelly and Hancock for County Attorney Aaron Jordan to also serve as city attorney. The city of Morris pays $38,000 annually, while the other cities are charged an hourly rate for criminal and civil cases.
  • The board appointed Dr. James Stock as Stevens County Coroner for the remainder of Dr. Michael Busian’s term and a second term from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2018.