County mulls rehiring health position

Published 2:38 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners discussed Tuesday the option to reopen hiring for the county’s Statewide Health Improvement Program coordinator. The talk comes after public concern about how the current coordinator was hired through an employment agency and with a single candidate interviewed.

County Administrator John Kluever said any decisions made about filling the position were made with his knowledge, and that Freeborn County Public Health Director Lois Ahern was not making this decision herself. He said the county has a history of going through employment agencies when hiring temporary help.

“I feel it was a good decision,” Kluever said. “It’s a practice we’ve always followed, but I will be looking at that practice.”

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He also said that they can discuss reopening the position to the public. He mentioned it doesn’t have to be a full-time position like it is now. The board will look at classifying and ranking the position at their meeting on April 20.

Commissioner Dan Belshan voiced his concerns with the position. He was worried about the possibility the county could lose the grant if it is mishandled. The board needs to find out if the county is subcontracting the position through Express Personnel, the employment agency, because the grant states all subcontracts need to be approved by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Belshan also said that he would like to see the position reopened because the county is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and he would like the public to have a chance to apply for the coordinator position. He said the position also could be filled internally.

Though the county has used Express Personnel in the past, Belshan asked if they’ve only interviewed one candidate before.

“We’ve certainly done it before, but I’m not sure it’s the best practice,” Kluever said.

There is presently no written contact with Express Personnel. Kluever described the ways that a temporary position is hired using the employment service. The county can find candidates and have them sign up to Express or they can ask Express for people who have certain qualifications who can then be interviewed.

The grant for the SHIP coordinator position is an 18-month grant. It started in February and ends in June 2011. The county is paying $28 per hour to Express Personnel, which then pays the coordinator $22 per hour. The difference goes to Express Personnel for administration costs.

The person the county hired as SHIP coordinator is Ellen Kehr, who had been at 4 Seasons Travel prior and is an Albert Lea city councilor. Kehr will be encouraged to reapply as well as anyone else who would like to apply if they decide to go through interviews again for the position.

“She’s doing the position, and she’s certainly qualified to reapply,” Ahern said.

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