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Bonuses continue to fuel partisan divide

County clerk tells her account, reason to board committee

The Grundy County Personnel Committee and County Clerk Lana Phillips addressed questions and concerns regarding end-of-year bonuses that came out of her office in November.

The Personnel Committee met Thursday. At last months’ Finance Committee meeting, Chairman Ron Severson brought it to the committee’s attention that bonuses were given out of Phillips’ office, as well as the treasurer’s and state’s attorney’s offices. The bonuses out of the state’s attorney’s office were under the previous state’s attorney.

Severson was not at Thursday’s meeting.

The week after last month’s committee meeting, Severson said it was discovered bonuses were also given out of the circuit clerk’s and sheriff’s offices. Among all the offices, more than $30,000 were given out in bonuses.

He has said previously this is not illegal, because once the budgets of elected officials are approved by the county board, the control of the money from then on is the elected official’s. But Severson said it was a morale issue for the county since many other county employees did not receive bonuses.

Phillips told the committee Thursday the bonuses from her office were taken out of the salary line item of her portion of the General Fund, and out of the salaries and “extra clerk” lines of her Record Document Storage Fund. The document storage fund comes into the clerk’s office, but is not levied for by the county.

She said she still was under budget and returned money to the county’s General Fund.

Severson said previously that $6,900 was given out of Phillips’ office in bonuses.

“Our employees don’t have county board members to go to bat for them or a union, all they have is us,” Phillips said.

Three of Phillips’ employees also attended the meeting to tell the committee how long they’ve been employees and what their job duties are.

“You felt forced to have to do this to compensate them?” asked committee chairwoman Vicki Geiger.

Phillips said she did not feel forced, but that her employees are not paid well and despite this, they go above and beyond what is expected of them.

“Why not talk to (the) finance (committee)?” asked David Welter, county board vice chairman.

“I didn’t know I had balances ’til the end of the month and finance had (already met),” answered Phillips.
“I wouldn’t have compensated them if I didn’t have the money left (in the budget),” she said.

Geiger commented that the concern is accountability and that the board members are voted in by the taxpayers to make sure county employees are held accountable for their actions.

Phillips argued that it isn’t the board’s job to micromanage the elected officials’ offices.

“If I wanted to raise the salaries to what I feel my employees deserve, are you going to give me it? I think you would say to step back,” she said.

Welter said she never even attempted to come to finance to ask to give her employees a raise or bonus.

Phillips said that when the departments came for budget hearings, they were told to leave their salary line items the same.

The Finance Committee now looks at everyone’s budget monthly to see where they stand on the budget.

Severson has said that once the county has a human resources director again, that person will make sure all budgeted salaries match a current employee, so salaries for future employees cannot be budgeted for. This avoids there being extra money later if an employee is not hired as expected.

The county will be putting procedures in place to avoid there being extra money in salary line items to avoid unapproved bonuses.

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