New employee addresses sick leave at county meeting

The first meeting of the year for the Potter County commissioners was called to order by Auditor Shawna Shaw on Jan. 8, with the first action being the oath of office given to new District Three commissioner Sandy Hagny by county Clerk of Courts Julie Kilian. Commissioner Bill Frost was elected chairman for another year.

States Attorney Craig Smith addressed the vacancy on the county commission, and because the board is at an even number at this point, the auditor is really the fifth commissioner until they elect someone, and could be the tie breaking vote. 

He told the board they should publicly note that there is a vacancy, and recommended putting an ad in the paper to see who is interested in the position. He said it could be addressed at the next meeting or a special meeting.

A potential opt out for secondary road taxes was brought to the board’s attention, and Smith said it expires this year. It was put in place for 10 years, and they have until July to do the opt out and it must be done this year in order to do the assessments to collect money next year. He said they will run out of money this year if they don’t.

Another matter he discussed with the board was the question of sick leave and how the county should apply it. He referenced the policy manual, and said it’s clear that employees begin to accumulate sick leave when they start working, but the question is when does that become applicable and when can the employee use it. A probationary employee accrues it, but has no right to take it in the first 90 days. He did think it could be made more clear. Hagny agreed that it should be clarified in the policy, so Smith will work on that for the next meeting.

He talked to the board about health insurance and Medicare policies, and how important it is to make sure they get it right. Zweber asked if the county should get out of the insurance business altogether. Hagny said that another county added to the paycheck of the Medicare eligible  employees which covered the benefits and saved the county money. Frost added that it has been a discussion in the past to get away from providing insurance and instead providing a wage increase for employees to purchase their own.

Highway maintenance employee Paul Miller told the commissioners that according to the handbook, he should have sick pay starting his first full day of employment. He wanted to make it clear that nothing was said to him when he started work about a 90 day probation period. He referenced other employers that offer sick pay and give it starting the first day of work. 

Smith told him what was discussed with the board regarding the policy, and explained how it accrues.

Miller told the states attorney  and commissioners that he thought it was wrong the county holds his money that’s he’s earned and won’t let him use it.

It was pointed out that he had a 90 day probationary period before getting any benefits. Miller said he started full time on Nov. 12, but worked part time prior to that. 

Miller said there is a formula that, if he left the job after eight months, that the county would have to pay him on his sick leave, and asked how that’s right that he can’t use it while he’s here, but they will pay him if he quits in eight months. Smith explained that it’s a benefit and not an entitlement, and Miller said that if they don’t want to give it, then don’t offer it. 

Smith will make proper reference using different language to clarify the policy on sick leave.

He repeated that it is necessary for the board to show the commissioner vacancy and put it on record that at a later date the board will fill it.

The legal minutes are published in the Jan. 17 edition of the News, and are online at www.pottercountynews.com or www.sdpublicnotices.com. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 1 p.m.

-Molly McR

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