Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Tension at the top: He said, he said continues in county government

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said it had been assumed erroneously that he was accusing County Auditor Robert Wichlinski in his statement on March 4 about using county employees for political gains.

Evans during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting clarified the statement saying he meant to refer to a “minority of County Council members who have made some outrageous and unfounded claims about our dedicated employees.”

It did not name any members in particular.

The statement ended with a call upon the leaders of the County Council to discuss the formation of a Human Resources Department.

The topic of a human resources report came up at the Feb. 27 Council meeting. Wichlinski then said he would ask the Commissioners to extend his office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Restating his points, Evans said that human resources matters are the sole responsibility of the Commissioners and that his board will not be considering policy changes for a specific department or office. All changes will affect all employees, he said.

“Our employees deserve to be treated equally and fairly,” he said.

With that, Evans said he recommends to Wichlinski, who was not at the meeting, to let the Commissioners focus on their responsibilities and that he focus on his.

Evans said that with nearly $1.6 million spent from the non-reverting fund for the Total Quality Management program, he hopes that there will no longer be snafus on Wichlinski’s part in uploading budget information to the state’s Gateway system, payroll or getting information to contracted companies who write up cost allocation plans so the County can receive state and federal grants.

The Commissioners received a letter from the Charles Malinkowski, president of Malcon Malinowski Consulting, announcing the termination of an agreement to deliver 2012 and 2013-15 cost allocation plans (CAP) because of failed attempts to contact the auditor’s office for financial and payroll data needed to configure the 2012 CAP.

Evans read the letter into the public record and asked Commissioners Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, and Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, to join in voting to hire a new consulting firm to perform that work in order to meet the deadline for the plan so the reimbursements can be collected.

The board was unanimous in approving a contract with Dorset Consulting to continue the work at $9,000 annually over a three year period, the same rate as Malcon. The money will be paid out of the auditor’s non-reverting fund, as was the previous contract.

County Attorney Betty Knight said she hopes to meet the April 1 deadline and has put in a request to the Indiana Department of Children’s Services for an extension to the end of April.

“This is a terrible state of things if you ask me and there is really no excuse for it,” said Evans.

One grant in particular that is contingent on the County providing a CAP is the IV-D Court grant from the state, through the Federal Social Security Act, which is diverted into the County’s General Fund. IV-D courts regulate child support programs in the county.

Besides the auditor, information for the CAP is gathered from the County Clerk’s office and the Prosecutor’s office, which had already turned in their information, Evans said.

County Budget Specialist Vicki Urbanik thanked the Commissioners for moving on with a new consultant and told them that the County had received $725,287 in miscellaneous revenue from the IV-D Court grant, about $100,000 of which was picked up because of the CAP.

A “manufactured” crisis

Meanwhile, Wichlinski told the Chesterton Tribune this morning that his office had the information available and could have completed the CAP on its own but gave Malinkowski the information last week because of the service Malinkowski wanted to provide to the County.

According to Wichlinski, the communication problems were because phone calls were made to an extension of an employee who no longer works in the Auditor’s office.

Another point Wichlinski made is that he was the one who suggested Dorset Consulting and that a representative from the firm is in his office today. He said the work will be done by April 1 and he doesn’t understand why Evans criticized him publicly in his statement Tuesday.

“Nobody had to make those kinds of comments. This is a manufactured crisis,” Wichlinski said. “This was only a matter of having a disgruntled contractor and we got him the information he wanted.”

He also contends that the Commissioners cannot spend money out of the auditor’s non-reverting fund without his acquiescence.

GIS back in planning office

In a related action, Evans said he “truly believes” that the County’s Geographic Information System (GIS) is “under-utilized” sitting where it is now in the Auditor’s Office and proposed to move it back to the County Plan Commission office.

A motion to do so was supported unanimously by the commissioners.

GIS provides a mapping system, containing different hardware and software, to display geographical information accurately. It can be used by residents and organizations to find real estate parcels and look up data.

Wichlinski recently reorganized his office and made a space in which the public could access the system. There is also a version of the GIS map online that can be accessed from the County’s website.

Evans said the Plan Commission office is equipped and ready to install the system.

Wichlinski told the Tribune that the auditor has been fully funding the GIS budget. It used to be paid partially from the Assessor’s Reassessment Fund which no longer has enough funds, he said.

He questions how the GIS system will operate in the Plan Commission office since the mapping software is in his office.

Pictometry

Also, the Commissioners approved 3-0 to renew the contract with Pictometry for $140,000 to provide up-to-date and detailed aerial imagery for the County Assessor.

County Assessor Jon Snyder requested the renewal saying the company is about to do a flyover for a neighboring county, which knocks down start-up costs for Porter County. He said now will be an ideal time for an aerial flyover before the trees begin to leaf.

The costs will be paid out of the auditor’s non-reverting fund, Snyder said.

Snyder has said the images are so rich that his workers can use them to measure property improvements without having to physically go out into the field, providing a savings in his budget.

 

 

Posted 3/19/2014