Webster County Sheriff Brian Mickelson said he's ready to hire a new deputy. But the Board of Supervisors said the sheriff was never granted permission to add another employee to the department.
The Webster County Civil Service Commission submitted a list of a dozen candidates to the supervisors Dec. 7, and the board placed the list on file until Mickelson confirms his official intentions on how he wishes to spend the $212,314 Community Oriented Policing Services grant.
"There are other things we could do with that grant," said board Chairman Keith Dencklau.
According to the rules of the COPS grant, the money is to cover the salary and benefits for one officer over a three-year term. However, it can be used to: retain an officer that would otherwise be laid off, rehire an officer that was already laid off or hire a new officer, which is what Mickelson said he intends to do.
In fact, he said he's ready to offer the job to one of the qualifiers as soon as he gets board approval.
"Hiring someone has to go through us," said Dencklau. "We haven't even said he could hire somebody yet. I don't have a clue what Brian wants to do with it. I don't know what his plans are."
Although Mickelson began advertising for a new deputy in The Messenger in early November, he did not have the board's approval to actually hire another employee. So when the list of hireable candidates was submitted to the board Dec. 7, the board filed the list, but did not take action.
"I talked to the Civil Service Commission, and they were under the impression that the list had been certified, but when I talked to Keith (Dencklau), he said they hadn't certified it yet," Mickelson said. "I don't know why they haven't certified it."
Dencklau said Mickelson has failed to communicate with the board, and in fact, has not attended a meeting in more than six months.
"I've left a message with him, and I told him he needed to come in and talk to us," Dencklau said. "I can't speak for the board, but I personally have no issue with him hiring someone if it's feasible - if the money is in the budget. Public safety is the No. 1 issue."
Dencklau said the board has wanted Mickelson's input on the status of his budget for the next six months. He said other county department heads had responded with their appropriations, but the supervisors had been waiting for Mickelson. Webster County auditor Carol Messerly said Mickelson showed up Tuesday morning to discuss the budget with her, Dencklau and Supervisor Bob Singer.
"I'll have it to them on time," Mickelson said. "I've looked at the budget, and it looks fine."
The Sheriff's Office budget was reduced by $300,000 for fiscal year 2011, and Dencklau expressed concern that Mickelson was taking the recent cuts too personally.
"We're not singling out the sheriff's office. Everyone was treated exactly the same," Dencklau said. "Everyone got a 10 percent cut a year and a half ago, at the end of 2008 and early 2009, before we even got into this year's budget. We've made the appropriations for that for the next six months for every county department. We did that so we could have a better handle on our budget."
Dencklau said the cuts to the sheriff's budget appears severe because that department works with a $2 million-plus annual budget. Compared to other departments with smaller budgets, the $300,000 reduction seems like a lot.
After discussions made privately Tuesday morning, Messerly said Mickelson can expect to see an item on next week's agenda to possibly "reconsider their appropriations" because of recent grants the sheriff's department has received, specifically the October COPS grant and a $93,533 Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy grant received in August. She said the board might reconsider the sheriff's budget cut as a result, because the grants could offset expenditures from the general fund.
However, she said the hiring of a new deputy was still not discussed.
Mickelson said the lack of communication is the result of bad timing between himself and the board members.
"They're not here (at the courthouse) all day," he said. "When I try to talk to them, they're busy. Then I get busy. It's kind of hard when they're only here a couple hours a day."
Contact Amber Williams at 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org