employee of the Porter County Auditor’s
Office--one of five cut, a quarter of the staff--is blaming
“politics” for her firing.
Wichlinski denies that allegation and says instead that the five terminated
employees would have been ill-suited to the new office environment, as it’s
recently been restructured under a collaborative effort with the Assessor’s
and Treasurer’s offices.
agreed to speak to the Chesterton Tribune
on condition of anonymity--said that her termination, after more than 20
years as a county government employee, took her
“completely . . . by surprise.”
In particular, she
alleged that the Auditor’s Office paid a
consultant thousands of dollars--an amount significantly greater than her
salaryâ to perform functions which she could have done herself, such as
collect homestead credit violations.
Thus, she said,
Hannon, Hannon & Hannon was paid a total of $117,950 in 2013. The employee’s
Auditors, Assessor’s, and Treasurer’s offices paid consultants a total of
$517,272 in 2013.
Wichlinski, for his
part, is emphatic that the five employees were terminated based not on the
number of years under their belt but rather on their likely inability to
thrive in the new office culture, reorganized in terms of the business
strategy known as Total Quality Management (TQM). Those five, he said, would
“not find success.”
“I’m not going to
set up a person for failure,” said Wichlinski. “It’s time to take things to
the next level and it’s not going to be tied to personality, it’s not going
to be tied to ‘this is the way we’ve always done it.’ It’s going to be tied
to compliance with the law. It’s going to be tied to customer service, how
we can do the best possible job we can for the customer. It’s going to be
tied to respect, support and nurturing and fostering the team.”
disputed the term “firing,” inasmuch as the five can collect unemployment
Wichlinski is not
the only county official to make personnel changes since their election.
Assessor Jon Snyder cut his staff by six in 2011, in his first year in
said, he wanted to wait until he had a grasp on his employees’ capacity for
change and adaptation.
Among other things,
Wichlinski is eliminating the chief deputy position and workers in his
office will be cross-trained in skills. That training is being conducted by
Low & Associates and funded by moneys from the Auditor’s non-reverting fund
for the TQM program, Wichlinski said.
critics accusing him of spending large amounts of money at will from the
non-reverting fund--that all TQM contracts were approved by majority votes
of the County Commissioners and the County Council.
“We are going to
offer as much e-Gov as humanly possible and streamline sufficient services
as we possibly can so the customer’s visit can be painless. I think we can
make it a worthwhile experience,” Wichlinksi said.
crediting TQM with the collection of $2.04 million in homestead tax credit
President Dan Whitten, D-at large, and Vice-president Karen Conover, R-3rd,
told the Tribune that they believe TQM has delivered on its promise
for timely tax bills, but that they remain skeptical in a few areas.
Whitten, for one,
has misgivings about Wichlinski’s use of consultants in preference to staff.
“If you choose to give someone a bunch of consulting money but you’ve got to
cut your staff, to me that just seems wrong,” he said.
Conover called the
concept of TQM “a great thing” which may in practice have proved “a bit of
And she expressed
her satisfaction with a new law which requires money from the Auditor’s
non-reverting fund to be distributed to the municipal units of government.
Neither Whitten nor
Conover said they could speak to Wichlinski’s decision to reduce his staff.
They did say,
however, that it was not the Council’s directive to departments to terminate
On the other hand,
Whitten is recommending that departments cut their spending by 5 percent.
But, he said, it’s
up to elected officials to run their offices as they see fit.