By Daniel Karell
GEORGETOWN — In the first general meeting since the resignations of its director and deputy director, the Brown County Board of Elections passed a controversial policy handbook, which has caused consternation from employees and members of the board.
Board member JoAnn Kattine argued that a motion to pass the handbook, which the board members hadn’t read through thoroughly, should be tabled until the next meeting so that each board member could bring up concerns or issues with certain policies.
But after a back and forth with fellow Democratic member of the BOE, Dallas Hurt, Republican board member Bill Herdman was convinced to pass the motion and approve the handbook, effective Sept. 1, with amendments to the policy accepted moving forward.
“I’m not saying that this needs to be written in stone, but I say that we need a comprehensive, uniform, employee handbook now, until its amended,” Hurt said.
Prior to the motion’s passage, Herdman suggested that the BOE hold a special meeting to go over the handbook.
“That’s going to take some time (to read through),” Herdman said. Kattine was in approval.
Hurt explained that the previous policy handbook had been too vague on certain issues, especially regarding overtime and compensatory time off.
In addition, the policy was more than 20 years old and amendments to it were not compiled together.
“Our previous handbook proved to be so inadequate and caused a lot of the problems we’ve endured in the past several years, let along last year,” Hurt said.
“One of the problems with the old handbook was concerning authority in the office,” Hurt added. “We had two officers and two clerks, and we had a general outline of a chain of authority. But come to pay, they were all treated on an hourly pay schedule, which the board approved in 1996, which allowed for the massive accumulation of discretionary overtime without the oversight of the board.”
“That’s what caused large numbers to be sent across the hall to the county commissioners to pay, or not pay. By not having a complete, comprehensive, uniform policy handbook, we’ve gotten ourselves into that situation.”
The situation Hurt was referring to was the recent controversy between former director Kathy Jones and the Brown County Commissioners over her retirement payout.
Jones and the commissioners differed on their calculations about what Jones was owed, but eventually she was paid a number agreed by the commissioners. On Aug. 5, Jones announced her resignation at a special meeting of the BOE.
Back at the general meeting, Kattine made a motion to table the policy handbook until either the next meeting or a special meeting had been called. The motion was defeated, with Kattine and Herdman voting in favor and both Hurt and BOE chair Moriah Votel voting no.
Hurt said that he disagreed with tabling the motion because it had been tabled at the last meeting.
BOE Clerk Connie Ayers, who was in attendance at the meeting due to Deputy Director Elizabeth Thorn-McKenzie’s resignation on Aug. 5, said that she believed changes needed to be made in the handbook.
“I don’t know what kind of changes you’re making,” Ayers said. “I’m aware of a few of the changes and some of the things I’ve heard that are in there I don’t agree with. I think they’re kind of ridiculous.”
Ayers took offense to changes to the dress code as well as the overtime pay, among others.
According to the new policy handbook, employees must wear closed-toe shoes, dress pants or khakis, and a variety of dress shirts.
“This is too strong and this is as old fashioned as it comes,” Kattine argued.
Following this discussion, Herdman changed his mind, and said he was prepared to approve the handbook, but on the condition that there could be amendments in the future.
Despite Kattine’s objections, a motion to approve the new handbook passed, 3-1.
The BOE spent a majority of the rest of the meeting going over the petitions of each potential candidate for this November’s general election. The BOE wanted to ensure that each candidate submitted the minimum required amount of signatures to be eligible to be on the ballot.
At the end of the meeting, clerk Aimee Pfeffer announced her resignation, effective Aug. 20. She gave no reason for her decision to resign.
Reach Daniel Karell at 937-378-6161. Follow him on Twitter @GNDKarell