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Commissioners' meeting times need to change, Part IV

By Scott Tibbs, September 4, 2012

Note: I submitted this as a letter to the editor on August 27.

In the IDS article about county government meeting times, county commissioner Iris Kiesling tried to use overtime for county employees as an excuse not to have meetings at a time where they would be accessible to the general public. The overtime claim is nonsense and Kiesling knows it.

First, county employees work 35 hours per week, and time between 35 and 40 hours is banked as compensatory time at a rate of one hour earned per hour worked. Schedules can be adjusted to allow employees who need to attend an evening county commissioners meeting to take that time off. County council meetings have always been held outside of normal county government working hours, so this has been the case with employees required to attend those meetings for many years. It is simply a matter of elected officials and department heads managing their employees' schedules.

Another important point is that department heads are often the ones required to attend the meetings. Department heads are classified as "exempt" employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and do not get overtime or compensatory time time for working extra hours. Because of these facts, there is no legitimate reason county government would need to pay any extra money in overtime costs.

Kiesling has been a county commissioner for more than 15 years, having taken office in 1997, so she knows all of this. Before that, she was on the Bloomington City Council as an at-large member. The city council meets at 7:30 p.m. Perhaps it would be an inconvenience for the commissioners to meet during the evenings, but the commissioners were elected to serve us. If Kiesling is not willing to take that step, perhaps she should be replaced by former plan commission member John Newlin.

The IDS is to be commended for citing Republican candidate Nelson Shaffer's support of reform, especially since the Herald-Times completely ignored his statement on the issue. Shaffer is clearly the best choice to replace outgoing county commissioner Mark Stoops. To learn more about Mr. Shaffer, visit ElectShaffer.com or facebook.com/NelsonRShafferCampaign.