The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors turned down a request for a salary increase for the office manager at the Palo Alto County Attorney’s Office Tuesday morning during its weekly meeting. County Attorney Peter C. Hart presented his request to the supervisors by noting some comparisons with similar positions in the county courthouse.
“There are two people in the courthouse who were hired after Sheree (Huberty) was hired nine years ago and they’re making $35,119,” Hart pointed out. “Sheree is making $32,500. What I would respectfully request is that you consider her nine years of service that Sheree has in there.”
Hart noted that the new secretary had been hired in the sheriff’s office and that after three months, she was receiving $33,019.
“To leave Sheree at $33,410 does no do justice to the loyalty she has shown for nine years,” Hart said. “I would propose you raise Sheree to $35,000 and give Dawn (Jensen) a 2.8 percent raise like everyone else got. I would ask you to consider that.”
Hart re-iterated that he felt the sheriff’s office secretary, Melanie Rouse, was doing an excellent job, but that her salary was higher than that of his own office secretary, who had been on the job for nine years.
“It’s not equitable, it’s not just, it’s not fair,” Hart said.
“Dawn was moved last year from part-time to full time, is that right?” asked Supervisor Keith Wirtz.
When Hart replied to the affirmative, Wirtz continued. “And when she was moved to full time, she said she was not interested in the insurance?”
“Well, it turns out she is,” Hart answered.
“So, she’s getting another benefit and the raise,” Wirtz observed.
“Insurance worth $12,000,” offered Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.
“She is entitled to it,” Hart reminded the board.
“You told us when we agreed on what we were going to pay her, that she was not going to take the insurance, you remember that?” Hofstad asked Hart. “We visited about her not taking the insurance and we decided that we could raise her salary then to what you had asked because she wasn’t going to take the insurance. Now, we’re going to spend another $12,000.”
“She’s entitled to it,” Hart repeated.
“I can’t help it,” Hofstand replied. “That’s not the idea. The idea is what you told us and what has happened are not the same thing. Consequently, we’re having to come up with $12,000 more than we had planned on. So now, we have to come up with more to pay Sheree more to make her comparable to somebody else.”
After a moment, Hofstad continued, “it seems to me the reason we’re herre is to control the spending, and it seems to me that we’re not doing a very good job of it.”
Hart reminded the board that in the past, salaries were set after the Compensation Board met. “The Comp Board meets, then the supervisors make an adjustment and the union goes off that. Then the county conservation and the engineer go off of that and that’s historically been the routine.”
Hart continued, “Dawn needs the 2.8 percent because everyone else is getting that and Sheree needs to be at the $35,000, or at least what the secretary in the sheriff’s office is making.”
“Well, I realize the secretary in the sheriff’s office is tied to the union,” noted Board Chair Leo Goeders, “And as far as Sheree goes, fairness is fairness, I agree with you. There are other offices that try to compare themselves with the courthouse, and that’s not the standard, and she has been lower than the standard since day one. I’m totally for bringing her up to the standard. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”
“I can concede Jerry’s argument about the insurance for Dawn,” Hart said. “I can swallow that. But for Sheree, we need to do this.”
“I think we all agreed on the 2.8 percent,” Wirtz said. “and we can’t be changing everything all the time.”
“I agree with that,” Hofstand added.
The discussion continued, with Hofstad providing budget amounts for the county attorney’s offices in Kossuth and Lyon counties, in comparison with Palo Alto County. When Hart was asked if his budget could cover raising Huberty’s salary to the $35,000 level, he replied it could not.
“How much more is you budget than last year?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan. Hart did not have the figure, but Hofstad determined it to be $36,000, or 15.68 percent.
“I just don’t think we can compare Peter’s office to others in the county,” Goeders said. “The workload is higher and I just think it would be unfair to compare, and besides, how you’d do it, I don’t know.”
After a bit more discussion, Hofstad brought the issue to a head. “I’d move we grant the 2.8 percent raise and stand right where we’re at.”
“I’d second that,” Wirtz spoke up.
On a roll call vote, Supervisors Hofstad, Ron Graettinger, Wirtz and Noonan voted aye, while Goeders cast the lone nay vote.