County supervisor questions treasurers honesty

CLINTON — Three days after Clinton County Supervisors discussed County Treasurer Rhonda McIntyre and her budget, McIntyre faced the Board to defend her budget and staffing needs for her office.

Supervisor Jim Irwin Jr. met with McIntyre last week explaining his position of trying to cut staff through attrition and adding that he does not want to lay off or fire anyone.

McIntyre, who was not present during the board's discussion on Monday, said there are two potential retirements in July of this year and February 2020. Both employees do jobs that McIntyre says are irreplaceable in the treasurer's office. McIntyre put the two potential retirements on the budget so they could be incorporated into it if there were room, she said.

When Irwin discussed the budget with her, he did not have specific requests but was generic and asked how she could cut her staff, McIntyre said. The board's proposed $76,172 reduction in treasurer's office wages is more specific and something she can work with, she said.

"I would like to work with you to get where we need to be," McIntyre said. "That's not the problem. The problem was knowing what the number was. And then, you know, I'll have to figure out what we can do to accommodate some of that."

McIntyre said the Board and treasurer's office need to start working together. They are one county.

"I think it's time that we stop saying silly things," McIntyre said. "You can't take things back when you say them.

"And I think we all need to learn how to work together and be more respectful of one another," McIntyre said. "And I do appreciate our conversation and your honesty. I don't see that that happened. So going forward from here can we all try and communicate a little better? And instead of picking on each other let's try and find the answer to the problems that we have to deal with. That's all I ask. I'm more than willing."

Supervisor Chairman Dan Srp said that the last four years McIntyre has been "full of blame directed at this office.

"This office speaks up one time against you and now we need a spirit of unity," Srp said. "Numerous times you've written it into resolutions, direct blame, trying to direct blame. Had nothing to do with this office," Srp said.

"You've written it into resolutions aiming things at this office. You've handed out fliers at the Satellite Office in DeWitt directing blame at this office. What you're asking for is not what we've been receiving from your office historically," Srp said.

Srp questioned whether McIntyre had intended to reduce staff through attrition herself or only if required to do so by the board.

"Through the campaign at events that I was at and numerous times in articles with the media and different things you were quoted as discussing and presenting an intent to reduce staff through attrition, and now the way you're representing is only if we can justify a need, is that correct?" Srp said.

McIntyre said she is willing to reduce staff if it is absolutely necessary.

"This is my county too," McIntyre said. "I don't want to see us not be successful in our county. I work very, very hard at my job."

Srp said the state of the budget in Clinton County is due to multiple factors, including a lack of growth in Clinton County, lack of revenue and lack of growth in the tax base. He said the county has been asked for years to provide the same high level of services with less resources and said the county has worked very hard to do so.

"I would say almost every department in the county has previously participated in aggressive efforts to right size to the level of need," Srp said. "Other staffs have been reduced. This is not an isolated focus on just one department or your department as you just represented. This has been an ongoing effort for years that you have consistently, I feel like, resisted."

Srp referenced data from other counties on staffing levels in the treasurer's office. He said Clinton County is staffed more similarly to Dubuque County, which is twice its size, than to Muscatine County, which is similar in size to Clinton County.

"How much staff do we need to run the office," Srp asked. "Not how much staff do you want. Not how many employees would you like to have available.... And not as your number-one preferred way to run the satellite office, but what is the minimum level need to provide these services?

"I know that this is not the first time that this question has been raised," Srp said, "and I think that's the crux of the question right now."

McIntyre said there are multiple factors in staffing including the hours of vacation, hours of wellness leave and hours of longevity leave. The office also needs to plan for illnesses, funeral leave and doctor appointments. It needs to have employees trained to be able to cover each other's roles when they are not at the office.

In reference to other county treasurer offices, McIntyre said she doesn't believe the board has all relevant information.

"I don't know their traffic," McIntyre said. "I don't know their volume. We have no idea what their statistics are, and I don't even want to get into that. I'm very concerned with ours. But if you don't have all of those statistics, and you aren't putting all of those things on the table, you're not comparing apples to apples. And I think that's what we need to be doing here," McIntyre said.

"If you want us to be compared to another county, we need to get all the facts. And I'm willing to work on your $76,000 within our office," McIntyre said.

McIntyre said she doesn't know if two employees planning to retire will actually retire. Circumstances change, she said.

Supervisor Tom Determann said it's McIntyre's job to justify her staffing levels to the Board of Supervisors, not the Board's job to justify it to McIntyre.

"I think it'd behoove you to justify it to us," Determann said. "Not tell us we have to justify it to you. Other counties are doing it. Explain to us why you can't do it. It's that simple."

Determann said he wants to see McIntyre staff her office comparable to other counties Clinton County's size. He believes nine employees in the treasurer's office would be "more than appropriate."

Staff Writer John Rohlf can be reached at jrohlf@clintonherald.com