May 26—The issue of Davison County adding a full-time employee to handle human resources caused more heartburn Tuesday, with Auditor Susan Kiepke alleging the county commission has gone behind her back to "completely derail" the makeup of her department.
The discussion took place during a gathering of department heads during a regular meeting Tuesday at the Davison County North Offices. It was the latest to be terse over the issue. Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode told the department heads that the county was moving forward with having Tonya Meaney, a longtime deputy in the auditor's office as the designated HR employee. Bode said she wanted county department heads to consider how the HR employee would help them improve how they do their business.
That upset Kiepke, who has worked as the county's auditor since 2007, saying her department has been rocked by a lack of communication. She said the commissioners decided on May 11 to move Meaney to the HR role, and out of the auditor's office. Kiepke wasn't at the commission's meeting that day, leading to the allegation that she was blindsided by that decision.
"I've had members of my department come to me very upset and concerned about this," Kiepke said. "My office is a mess."
In the board's meeting minutes from May 11, there's no mention of any discussion regarding the HR position or appointing Meaney to the role. A 50-minute executive session was held regarding personnel at the end of the meeting without any official action designated or noted.
Kiepke also said that the commission has put Meaney and her department "between a rock and a hard place." Kiepke alleged that Meaney could be out of a job if she doesn't take the HR role and if the change happens, the auditor's office — which currently has four employees including Kiepke — would have to eliminate a full-time job because there may not be enough work for a full-time job without HR duties involved, as they are now.
"I believe in saving the county money and I believe this is a waste of taxpayer dollars," Kiepke said of the proposal. "I feel like I do everything I can, go above and beyond (for the county) and this is what I get for it."
When Kiepke said Meaney could work in the auditor's department and still be the HR director, Commissioner Denny Kiner responded by saying "no," and inferring that the position shouldn't be positioned under another department head.
That has been a key part of the discussions around the role to this point, because commissioners and department heads have agreed that an HR employee should be able to handle sensitive information discreetly and unaffiliated from other departments.
Kiner also disagreed with the sentiment that the employees in the auditor's office weren't supportive of making the change.
"That is unfortunate that you feel that way," Kiner said to Kiepke. "From the conversations I've had, it's not your whole staff that feels that way."
The commission has spent parts of the last two years discussing how to handle its human resources tasks. In 2019, it discussed outsourcing some duties to another firm to save funds, and in September 2020, Bode told the newspaper the county needed to hire a full-time, on-site position. According to an analysis conducted in 2020, the county was the fourth-largest among the state's counties to not have a full-time staff HR employee.
But Kiepke made it clear she wasn't happy with the county's plans in November, when she abruptly left a meeting in which the idea was being discussed, saying she felt the HR duties were in good hands in her department. She also outlined areas in which she felt the current setup was working and areas for improvement.
The discussion ended Tuesday when Commissioner John Claggett called for a point of order, cutting off Kiepke's argument and saying that discussing specific personnel shouldn't be occurring in a public meeting. Bode accepted the point of order, changing subjects.