The Linn County Board of Supervisors is sorting through comments — the majority critical — made by county employees about the quality of the maintenance of the county’s buildings, a job overseen by Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.
All of the comments released in a public report at the supervisors’ meeting on Wednesday were anonymous, which prompted an objection from Miller.
“So who are my accusers?” Miller asked.
The comments came during 11 interviews of county employees — some department heads, some groups of employees — conducted by two of the five supervisors earlier this year.
The comments include some positive remarks, though Miller acknowledged on Wednesday afternoon that the majority of comments were critical of the county’s facilities management under Miller’s purview. Most who commented, he contended, were county employees who report to the supervisors.
The effort to survey employees comes as part of what Miller called a “turf war” in which the supervisors have made it clear that they are looking at taking over the operation of the county’s facilities from Miller.
As auditor, Miller currently employs about 50 people, 30 or so to work in facilities and about 20 to help with Miller’s other duties, which include paying the county’s bills and running elections.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Supervisor Linda Langston said the supervisors, in part, want to make sure that the high-tech operations systems are being maintained responsibly in the buildings that the county has built or renovated since the flood of 2008.
Both the supervisors and Miller agree that constant disagreements between them have become part of the landscape these days in Linn County government.
“I want the drama to be done,” Langston said. “We are sick to death with the fomenting.”
Miller told the supervisors again on Wednesday that the employee survey fits into the supervisors’ “grand scheme” to grab the facilities operation from his supervision and turn it over to Garth Fagerbakke, who used to work for Miller and who currently is in a temporary assignment as the county’s construction manager at a time when most of the flood-recovery construction is coming to an end.
Miller said Iowa law specifies that county auditors maintain courthouses, and he said Linn County’s 16 or so major buildings include four buildings that fit that bill: the courthouse, the new Juvenile Justice Center, the jail and the county administration building. The latter is where most elected officials have offices that traditionally are in courthouses in smaller Iowa counties, he noted.
“It’s going to keep going on or until hell freezes over,” Miller said of the fight over facilities management. “I’m just not going to give up facilities just to end this. … I don’t think that’s a benefit to taxpayers.”
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner was quick to the microphone at the supervisors’ meeting on Wednesday to acknowledge that the comments in the supervisors’ report from the 11th interview came from him.
Those comments note that the facilities staff at the sheriff’s office “is tired of the relationship between the Board of Supervisors and the auditor” and note that the facilities staff is “on pins and needles,” the report states.