2017-06-15 / Front Page

Sheriff feels board disrespects his office

By Kelly Krager

HURON COUNTY - Recent decisions by the county Board of Commissioners have reportedly caused disgruntlement among employees, but no one has been more vocal about the impact policies have made on his staff than the sheriff.

Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson has battled with commissioners, especially those on the personnel committee, multiple times during his nine years in the office, but he said recent decisions have forced him to go public with his concerns.

During Tuesday’s Huron County Commissioners Meeting, commissioners discussed a letter the sheriff sent to all commissioners and the county’s corporation counsel, Steve Allen.

In it, he said he feels his office has been disrespected by personnel decisions the board has made, notably providing wage increases to employees in other departments based on an employee handbook change that stipulated supervisors are not to make less money than subordinates. On Tuesday, commissioners voted to redact that change, but Hanson said frustrations remain because many in his office feel the commissioners have shown favor to other departments.

As an example, Hanson referred to the battle he faced in 2012 when he wanted to give his undersheriff a raise.

“Those guys back then were adamant that we had to stay by the wage study,” he said, during an interview.

After a month of debate, the commissioners decided to offer Undersheriff Duane Miller a stipend for grant writing he was doing for the sheriff’s office, which put his salary above those he supervised.

“Whether that was a justified way of doing it, they came up with it. It wasn’t our idea. We just said, pay him because that’s the No. 2 position,” Hanson said.

In comparison, commissioners recently allowed the creation of Senior Trial Attorney in the Prosecutor’s Office, an action that gave a current employee a raise because the position put him in a supervisory role.

“What’s been happening is not fair,” Hanson said.

He denied his frustration is founded in tension that has existed between him and the Huron County Prosecutor’s Office. He said commissioners hold the county’s purse strings and are responsible for angst created when employees feel others are favored.

“This isn’t a sheriff and prosecutor thing. …The elected official can title a person anything they want. The commissioners have the say totally about what that person is going to get paid,” Hanson said.

Deputies feel as though they’ve been overlooked as commissioners approve promotions in other departments.

“The ball is in the court of the Board to start mending fences with the deputies,” Hanson wrote in his letter, dated June 9. “… Please work toward a fair and equal solution and not dig in further to make a deeper hole.”

Steps toward reparation may have been taken Tuesday, when commissioners unanimously voted to adjust the salary of Jacob Dhyse from Grade 150 to Grade 160, effective April 1. Hanson said the raise is warranted because Dhyse was assigned to take care of the Marine division last year, and has yet to be properly compensated.

He said he’s concerned the wage increases may put the county in a financial bind, especially as tax income from wind parks is reduced by turbine depreciation.

If cutbacks are needed in the future, Hanson said he pledges to continue to protect the public with road patrols and other law enforcement.

Hanson also voiced concerns about the Personnel Committee’s adhesion to the Open Meetings Act, which committee Chairman Dave Peruski addressed recently by making all committee meetings open to the public unless closed for reasons required by law.

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