‘More than due diligence’
Washington County Conservation Board president Craig Capps said today that the board had “done more than due diligence” to ensure it had accurate information and to be fair to everyone while making its decision about former Washington park ranger Bob Bellmer.
On Monday, after a closed session meeting, the board unanimously acknowledged Bellmer’s resignation/termination. Capps said that the board reviewed all available information, including an independent assessment of the workplace environment at the conservation department. Bellmer had originally submitted a resignation on Dec. 31, 2013, that would have taken effect Jan. 6. Capps said that he couldn’t say anything other than what was released in a press release Monday due to employee confidentiality.
“None of the board members appreciate having to do these things, but things have to be done,” he said.
Bellmer’s resignation was the subject of a Conservation Board meeting on Jan. 9 which more than 100 people attended, most voicing support for Bellmer. According to a statement Capps read at the Jan. 9 meeting, Bellmer submitted a resignation during a meeting with conservation director Steve Anderson, Washington County Attorney Larry Brock, human resources staff, and two members of the conservation board, during which he was confronted with evidence Anderson had turned over on Nov. 18, 2013. While the information was confidential, Capps had said that the people present at the meeting found there was enough evidence presented to require Bellmer to resign or be terminated.
A message left on The Journal’s answering machine after work hours Tuesday from a caller identifying herself as Deb Bellmer — Bob Bellmer’s wife — said that Bob Bellmer did not wish to comment on the situation.
During the Jan. 9 meeting, Capps had already addressed the speculation that Bellmer’s resignation being requested was in retaliation for Anderson being cited by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for violating two hunting laws. Anderson has since paid the fines and the board determined he would remain as director.
“It is not true – it is not a retaliation,” Capps said today. “There are so many underlying circumstances that are just now coming to a head. It was not a retaliation.”
He said that the board called in the independent assessor, which was one way to ensure everyone was treated fairly. Capps said the assessor did not know anyone in the conservation department. He also said the assessor only provided factual information of her findings and did not recommend any course of action to the board.
The Conservation Board is the entity responsible for hiring Anderson. Anderson then hires and decides on any disciplinary measures of all the employees of the conservation department.
In addition to Capps, the board also includes Lyle Moen, Liz Kaufman, Barb Donkersloot, and Bill Nickell.
Capps said that he does not believe the issue is over.
Washington County Attorney Larry Brock declined comment on the matter, saying that he is not involved in the situation and only attended Monday’s meeting to offer legal advice. In a previous statement, he said that the initial request for Bellmer’s resignation was not connected to Anderson’s being cited by the DNR.
A message left on The Journal’s answering machine after work hours from a caller identifying herself at Deb Bellmer — Bob Bellmer’s wife — said that Bob Bellmer did not wish to comment on the situation.