Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1007849

Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 18, 2014

County attorney wants bonuses

By Linda Wenger | May 28, 2013

In the midst of approving a budget amendment for fiscal year 2012-13, Washington County Attorney Larry Brock told the Board of Supervisors that he wants to use revenue from delinquent fines to give bonuses totaling $15,000 to the employees in the county attorney’s office. Brock’s remark was made during the supervisors’ weekly meeting Tuesday morning.
Since taking office in 2010, Brock has directed his staff to collect delinquent fines for the State of Iowa. After collecting a certain amount for the state, the county attorney’s office can retain a percentage of the delinquent fines.
“Bonuses?” Ron Bennett, chairman of the board of supervisors, asked.
“Bonuses based on?” Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. asked.
“Based on the collections that have been done in my office,” Brock said.
Bennett and Seward wanted to know if the county, historically, has given bonuses.
Deputy county auditor Michelle Hymann said, “No, and I believe bonuses are part of salary.”
Hymann also said that when the state auditor’s office visits the county every year, “they scrutinize the heck out of the salaries and everything.”
Before the discussion continued, Seward and Supervisor Bob Yoder left the Board of Supervisors Room.
“Mr. Chairman, I had removed myself from any consideration of the county attorney’s budget and salary discussions earlier in the year,” Seward said. “I now see that this is coming up again, so I am now going to excuse myself from any deliberation in this also.”
Yoder said he was following suit with Seward on the matter.
During a budget work session in January, Brock made some remarks about former county attorney Barbara Edmondson’s handling of delinquent fines. Edmondson represented Seward and Yoder in 2012 on criminal charges filed by Brock alleging campaign ethics violations, and Washington County juries acquitted both men.
Supervisor Steve Davis said that when the supervisors were doing the budget for fiscal year 2013-14 in January and February, the supervisors said the funds can be used to buy equipment.
“We’ve never given bonuses out,” he said. “Is it legal to do that?”
“That’s a very good question,” county auditor Dan Widmer said.
Widmer said he had talked to someone in the state auditor’s office.
“They had some problems and issues with doing this at this point in time,” he said.
Brock said the county’s share of the delinquent tax revenues are “payable to the county attorney’s office for use by the county attorney’s office.”
Brock also said that the bonuses “are not wages, these are not salary, these are not increasing the base pay of the employees. This is a one-time bonus to be given to the employees based on the work they’ve done.”
Supervisor Stan Stoops asked Brock if Brock had researched the issue and Brock said, “Yes.”
Davis said that the supervisors could approve the budget amendment and the transfer of the revenue to the county attorney’s office. As for the bonuses, Davis and Widmer said that was going to be an issue for another day.
Since the discussion was part of a public hearing, Bennett allowed comment from David Rosen in the audience.
“I’d say that in addition to checking very careful that there’s any wrongdoing involved in this or might be, there’s the question of the appearance of wrongdoing,” Rosen said.  “I think a lot of people in the county would wonder if this passes the smell test.”
Bennett said that the bonuses would have to be put on the agenda of a future meeting.
Seward and Yoder returned to the room and the board approved the budget amendment.

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