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home : news : news Thursday, April 28, 2016

10/19/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Supervisors debate future of justice coordinator job

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

Clinton County would take a financial hit if leaders decide not to continue funding a full-time coordinator for the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission (CCJCC), the former coordinator told the Clinton County Board of Supervisors this week.

Speaking to the board Monday, Oct. 14, Brian McKenrick said supervisor Jill Davisson's belief the coordinator position was designed as a short-term job is incorrect, and he argued the cost savings resulting from the coordinator's efforts far exceed the cost of the position.

McKenrick resigned from the coordinator position Sept. 26 to take a job as assistant court administrator for the Seventh Judicial District, which includes Clinton County.

The board of supervisors is considering whether to contract with McKenrick to assist with a jail needs assessment that began just before his departure and whether to continue funding the coordinator position in the long run.

A final presentation on the jail needs assessment is scheduled for Dec. 5.

It is unclear where the supervisors will stand when they take action on the proposals Oct. 21, but they have raised concerns over the $90 per hour rate McKenrick is proposing as well as a potential conflict of interest in light of his new job.

McKenrick presented a proposal to attend four day-long meetings with engineering firm Shive Hattery and stakeholders in the law enforcement system, to assist in preparing the jail needs assessment, to help prepare a final presentation for the assessment and to prepare the CCJCC's 2014 strategic plan.

The proposal will cost $4,860 based on 54 billable hours at an hourly rate of $90.

However, before detailing the proposal, McKenrick took issue with comments made when the supervisors discussed the position a week earlier.

"I was surprised to hear for the first time it was viewed as a temporary job rather than an ongoing investment," McKenrick said.

McKenrick said he would have had second thoughts about taking the job four years ago if he thought it was set to expire in 3-5 years, as supervisor Davisson stated at the Oct. 7 meeting.

McKenrick said news stories and meeting minutes about creating the coordinator position make no mention of it being a short-term job.

Efficiencies in the courts and jail spearheaded by the coordinator have reduced costs by $433,000 each year while costing the county just $65,000 in salary and benefits, McKenrick said.

McKenrick said the position is essential to the success of the CCJCC, and no member objected when the commission voted to recommend hiring a replacement.

"If the position wasn't necessary, we never would have ended up in the position we were in four years ago," McKenrick said.

Before the CCJCC was formed and a coordinator hired, the county's jail planning group was using a "band-aid approach" that doesn't work, he said.

McKenrick said eliminating the coordinator job would nullify all of the effort that has been put into the jail planning project meaning "any jail that is built quickly would be inadequate."

He said the "shortsighted" move would cost millions of dollars down the road and advised the supervisors they would need to add 15-20 beds to the design for a new jail if the coordinator position isn't continued.

That's exactly what happened in Scott County when its justice commission fell apart after building a new jail several years ago, McKenrick said.

Sheriff Rick Lincoln, representing the CCJCC, said the commission supports continuing the position and contracting with McKenrick to assist with the needs assessment before a new coordinator is hired.

"This will get the commission and the county through the process, and hopefully, it will be able to be transferred to someone else at that time," Lincoln said.

However, Davisson said she remains concerned about a potential conflict of interest in contracting with a state employee, despite assurances county attorney Mike Wolf and officials in the Seventh Judicial District have signed off on the idea.

"The conflict of interest - I'm still hung up on that. It concerns me we've got a state layer and a county layer," Davisson said. She maintained she was told when the supervisors created the position it was intended to last only 3-5 years and would be eliminated once a new jail was built.

"I'll go to my grave saying I was told it was a 3-5 year position," she said.

"I don't understand how that impression could have been left, based on the records," McKenrick said.

Lincoln said county leaders heard about the value of having a coordinator when they visited a justice commission in Winona, Wis., when the CCJCC was formed.

Officials were told Winona's justice commission accomplished more in its first year with a coordinator than it had in the prior five years without one, Lincoln said.

McKenrick said it would be "foolish" to eliminate the job even if it was presented as a temporary assignment because it's saving the county money.

McKenrick also took issue with a comment supervisor Davisson made Oct. 7 accusing him of failing to follow county policy by not notifying the human resources department when he was out of the office.

He said there was a single incident when a firm submitting a proposal for the jail needs assessment called the county switchboard repeatedly when he was absent to attend the funeral of former county auditor Charlie Sheridan.

"The decision was made last week to share concerns without bringing them to me or raising them in my evaluation," McKenrick said.

"These are concerns that could have been shared with me privately, and they weren't," he later added.

Davisson said she didn't conduct McKenrick's evaluation, and he countered the board of supervisors had a representative on the committee that did.

"I pretty much will share anything publicly I have to share because it's the taxpayer dollars," Davisson said, adding she just wanted to "share where I'm coming from."

"I wasn't here to understand where you were coming from," McKenrick said.

Regarding McKenrick's contract proposal, supervisor Brian Schmidt questioned the rate of $90 per hour.

"As far as the compensation level, I would propose a lesser rate," Schmidt said.

McKenrick said he is charging less than Shive Hattery is charging for the jail needs assessment and the same rate the county paid to consultant Tom Weber four years ago to complete a justice system study.

"I'm certainly worth what he was charging four years ago, but we can continue having an ongoing conversation this week," he said.

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