Kindler files salary appeal (UPDATED)

Published 9:46 am Monday, December 27, 2010

Freeborn County Sheriff-elect Bob Kindler has filed an appeal with the Freeborn County District Court to have his 2011 salary reviewed.

Kindler is appealing the $75,000 salary for 2011, as set by resolution of the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 14.

Bob Kindler

“Filing this appeal is not the way I would have preferred to start my first year as sheriff, but I’m embracing the challenge and confident the court will determine the county commissioners failed to give proper consideration to all aspects of the position of sheriff as required by statute,” said Kindler.

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Kindler is currently a detective supervisor with the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office. He defeated incumbent Sheriff Mark Harig during the Nov. 2 election. Harig presently pulls down $82,500 a year as sheriff. Kindler will continue to hold the detective supervisor position until being sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 3, 2011.

The detective supervisor position is the second highest paid position within the Sheriff’s Office.

Kindler is currently an hourly employee, making $39.39 per hour with a yearly base wage before overtime of $81,931. If he were staying in the detective supervisor position, his 2011 rate of pay would be $40.17 per hour, or $83,570 for the year.

The $75,000 salary represents a 9.25 percent reduction from Kindler’s base salary for 2010 and an overall salary reduction of over 15 percent when overtime is added. According to Kindler, the percentage reductions only compare 2010 wages to the 2011 salary and does not include the 2 percent increase that was given to all non-union and AFSCME union county employees.

“The responsibilities and duties of the sheriff did not diminish when I was elected and, in fact, are significantly greater than the position I currently hold,” said Kindler in a prepared statement.

When county commissioners set the salaries, budgets and levies in December, the offices of county attorney, auditor/treasurer and recorder each received $1,500 pay increases. The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners voted to freeze their own salaries at the previous $24,250.

Christopher Shoff

Minnesota state law provides an appeal process specifically for the office of sheriff.

“This is the only available process given to an elected official to address the amount of their salary,” said Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson, who unsuccessfully appealed his salary in 2007 and successfully appealed his salary in 2002.

According to Kindler, the appeal to the court alleges that the determination of the county board in setting the salary was arbitrary, capricious, oppressive, or without sufficiently taking into account the extent of the responsibilities and duties of the office and experience, qualifications and performance.

Kindler’s campaign focused on fiscal responsibility within the Sheriff’s Office with a plan to do minor restructuring to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

“Fair and equitable treatment of employees and an increase in morale were also mainstays of my campaign,” Kindler said. “It is unfortunate the county commissioners do not share those same values and have singled me out as the only employee or elected official of Freeborn County to receive a pay reduction for no apparent reason except for winning the election.”

District 4 Commissioner Christopher Shoff said no one is being singled out.

“There’s a historical precedent to it,” Shoff said. “When Mark became sheriff after Don Nolander, he didn’t automatically go into Nolander’s salary.”

Shoff also pointed out that a minimum salary below $75,000 was set earlier this year.

According to Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever, a minimum wage is set in advance so that people who want to consider running for office have an idea of the salary to expect. In this case, the minimum salary of $62,000 was set in January 2010.

“It’s unfortunate that in the statement, the county commissioners were called out,” added Shoff. “We’ve always been professional and this was fully discussed at workshops.”

Kindler also said that past practice of the county commissioners, when establishing the salary of the sheriff, has been to set the wages for the position higher than the top step of the pay range for detective supervisor. With overtime, the pay of a detective supervisor often exceeds the salary of the sheriff.

While no timeline has yet been set, Nelson said he would expect the hearing to be scheduled quickly because it is a salary issue. He said because it will be in District Court, it is possible that a Freeborn County judge would hear the case, though there have been times salary appeals were heard in neighboring counties.