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County board eyes catastrophic leave bank for employees

A proposal to establish a catastrophic leave bank for employees who need extra time off for emergency medical situations was discussed, and the human resources director, who is herself leaving, noted that there have been over 40 position openings the past three months.

Becker County Courthouse
Sessions of the Becker County Board of Commissioners take place at the county courthouse in Detroit Lakes.
Detroit Lakes Tribune File Photo
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DETROIT LAKES — A catastrophic leave bank for employees who need extra time, beyond their accrued paid time off and sick leave bank, for medical emergencies may soon be on the books for Becker County employees.

Though the issue was tabled at the county board's Tuesday, June 8 meeting, the commissioners are expected to take action on it, either for or against, later this month.

The proposed Catastrophic Medical Leave Sharing Bank would include hours donated by county employees from their unused time off, to be used only when an employee's individually accrued leave had run out. Under the proposed policy, such donations would be allowed just once a year — which sparked some discussion by the board.

Commissioner Ben Grimsley questioned why employees couldn't choose to donate their leave at any time, in response to an unanticipated need from a coworker.

As County Administrator Pat Oman and Human Resources Director Amy Rissmann both pointed out, the proposed policy was worded to avoid just this type of situation, as allowing for such donations to a specific employee could constitute a potential violation of the employee's right to privacy.

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"You shouldn't know who you're donating to, or why," said Oman.

Other questions arose during the discussion, which led to the board passing a motion to table the proposed policy for further review.

Also discussed at Tuesday's meeting was Rissmann's own impending resignation, and the need to fill her full-time position as well as that of a part-time assistant in the human resources department.

The commissioners considered a proposal to convert the three-quarters position into a full-time one, based on a lack of applicants.

Oman said that since the three-quarters position opening was posted in December, they've only had a handful of applicants, and none of them had the necessary qualifications for the job.

Commissioner Larry Knutson stated emphatically that he was not in favor of the expense of converting the position into a full-time one, though Oman noted during the ensuing discussion that in comparison to other counties' human resources departments, theirs was understaffed.

Commissioner Barry Nelson stated that the human resources department has been "overwhelmed" lately, due to staffing turnovers — over 40 position openings in the last three months, according to Rissman — and other requests for information that haven't been getting answered in a timely manner.

"It (making the position full-time) will help our employees get better service also," Nelson said.

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Oman and Rissman talked about the fact that the department has been "falling behind" on employee evaluations, and they need to do a personnel file audit sometime soon as well.

Ultimately, the motion to convert the position opening to full-time passed on a 3-2 roll call vote, with Nelson, Vareberg and Okeson voting in favor, while Knutson and Grimsley voted against it.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the commissioners held two, back-to-back closed sessions, one to discuss a possible land acquisition related to the Bucks Mill restoration project, and the other "to discuss potential and pending legal actions with Teamsters Local 320, including pending grievances."

While there was no action regarding the labor matter as a result of the closed session, the commissioners did pass a motion authorizing staff to "move forward with an offer" with regard to the land acquisition, Oman said. The motion was made and approved in open session, he added.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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