Letter to the Editor: County resident shares more concerns

Dear Editor,

Previously, I shared with the public via a Letter to the Editor, the first part of my comments to the County Commission on February 26.

Following is the second part of my presentation:

“The second concern is asking that you see the County Commission, the County employees and the County residents as a team that is working to make Nemaha County Kansas one of the best counties in the state.

“In reading the ‘Commissioner’s Update’ that is on the County Website, this document appears to be patting you commissioners on the back but belittling the employees and possibly the taxpayers as well.

“You said in the ‘Update’ you put in a completely new time recording system. Then you said ‘We were met with a great deal of resistance from employees that found it unreasonable’. I have no idea how much asking and listening you did with the employees to get their input since this would have made major changes in their work. I certainly hope you did both.

“One thing I learned as the director of a two county public library, with 8 locations and staff in all those locations is all staff members – or employees – can provide excellent input on moving an organization forward. And many times they can see the advantages and disadvantages of a project better than the administrators who are not involved in the day-to-day operation.

“We keep hearing that the County departments are having problems getting employees. Yes, this is a problem in a lot of businesses also, but when the County takes benefits away from employees, is it a wonder the County is having problems? You, as County Commissioners bragged in that ‘Update’ how you were taking sick leave from employees and how you were providing less health insurance. Perhaps as a taxpayer I was to be thrilled that you were doing this as it was supposedly saving the County money. But when it causes the County to lose good employees and prevents the hiring of good employees, it appears to be false economy!!

“There are other examples in the ‘Update’ where you the County Commission appear to have made decisions without considering the service you are to provide to the taxpayers.

“Be sure you are truly working as part of a team. I would strongly suggest you spend more time talking with and listening to your employees and the residents of the County prior to making decisions. Be sure you are willing to listen – even when what you hear is not what you were wanting to hear.

“Thank you for your time.”

Following the conclusion of my comments, Commissioner Dylan Keim spent several minutes trying to explain how the actions of the Commission saved the County ‘huge’ amounts of money and how the health benefits were not compromised and that sick leave was not taken from the employees.

If only, as I suggested in the first part of my comments, the meeting had been recorded, then the employees and residents of the County would have had the opportunity to hear his comments. All of the ‘team’ would then be able to work together with the same information and therefore, have a better chance at being a ‘team’!

Following the Open Public Forum, I decided to stay for the rest of the morning meeting. Unbeknownst to me, there was going to be a ‘discussion’ of another problem of the County Commission not viewing the employees as part of the team! From what I could hear and understand, the Payroll Department (which is now under the County Administrator) made a mistake when putting a deposit into the retirement account of the employees. A few days later, apparently when the mistake was discovered, the Payroll Department removed the extra amount that had been deposited in those accounts. However, the employees were not notified of the mistake and some just happened to check their account and saw the withdrawal.

Now the employees are concerned, and it appears to me rightfully so, that the Payroll Department could make a mistake and take large amounts from the employees’ retirement accounts and the employees never be notified of the mistake.

Then, if you check the minutes of the February 26 meeting, you will see Janell Niehues, County Treasurer, “updated Commissioners concerning payroll vendors that were paid incorrectly at the time of the last payroll. The issue will make the Treasurer’s Office unable to reconcile with the bank statement for February.” This appears to be connected to the mistake with the payment to the retirement fund.

So this ‘mistake’ appears to have major consequences for several parts of the County. And yet the employees were not notified of the problem. Where is the ‘teamwork’ that is necessary to provide for a productive business (or County government)??? And where is the honesty and openness in County government as noted in the Code of Ethics???

Freda Dobbins


This letter is paid for by Freda Dobbins.


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