Belshan takes a stand on health position

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Freeborn County Commissioner Dan Belshan was at odds with other commissioners over the Statewide Health Improvement Program coordinator position Tuesday.

Belshan said the hiring of the grant position did not follow rules for hiring personnel for the county.

“I would like to see the hiring process restarted and the rules followed,” Belshan said.

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He read from a guide to hiring personnel, which called for using open competition and providing equal opportunity. The guide said the position also needed to be approved by the board, which it was not.

“It wasn’t one individual that decided that was the process we’d go through,” Glen Mathiason said.

Commissioner Mathiason said Belshan was making it sound like county staff hired someone without any approval or direction.

However, the grant was approved by the board and some board members considered that decision approval for the hiring of the coordinator. County Administrator John Kluever said he thought when the board approved the grant that the staff could then carry out the grant by hiring someone without board approval. Belshan did not think he was approving the position when the commissioners approved the grant.

The board’s choices now are to open the position to the public or to see if they can cover the position internally to possibly save money.

“I prefer hiring internally and shifting duties among our existing staff because it saves the county the most money,” Belshan said.

He said any hiring for any extra staff needed ought to be open to the public. Mathiason said he talked to county employees in Steele County who said they had to hire someone full-time to cover the grant duties. He said he thought there was no way the duties could be covered by existing staff in Freeborn County.

The board will ask for advice from the county attorney, Craig Nelson, about whether the position needed board approval and about the fact that there’s no written contract with Express Personnel.

“There may be no legal obligation to correct this situation, but there is a moral obligation to do so,” Belshan said.

After the board receives legal advice from the county attorney they are slated to vote on the matter at the May 4 meeting. In the meantime members of the board will look more in depth at how other counties in the area handled the grant money for the SHIP position.

Belshan contacted some counties and found that they covered the position internally or hired part-time positions to cover the work. He thinks the current situation reflects poorly on the county.

“The public expects openness in use of their tax dollars,” Belshan said. “If we correct this situation, it will be positive for the county.”

In August of 2009, the Minnesota Department of Health awarded more than $40 million in grants for the Statewide Health Improvement Program through June 2011. A partnership of southeastern Minnesota counties, which included Freeborn County, was awarded $2.77 million for related projects.

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