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County Executives Deal With Weighty Topics

The Marinette County Executive Committee does not meet every month, but when they do, they usually delve into some pretty weighty subjects. This was certainly the case at their Thursday, March 7 meeting as they discussed topics ranging from a Legislative Committee, to the Corbeille case, to possibly moving from an elected coroner to a hired medical examiner.

County Board Chairman Vilas Schroeder began the meeting by announcing that the County has entered into a tentative agreement with Bay Area Medical Center to open a Marinette County Clinic for county employees. The Clinic, which will be staffed about 20 hours a week by a Nurse-Practitioner, will be located at 2935 Shore Drive in Marinette. The clinic will also offer some evening hours and a Call Center. Schroeder also announced that the Clinic will “go live” on May 1.

The purpose of the clinic is ultimately to help lower the healthcare insurance premiums paid by the County for employee health insurance by offering a lower-cost alternative clinic specifically for county employees. More information and the rationale will be explained at future County Board meetings.

The formation of Legislative Committee was enacted by the Execs at this meeting as well. The matter has been discussed at past Executive Committee meetings and was thought to be long, drawn-out process to form, but a careful examination of existing County Ordinances discovered that it already allowed for such a committee.

The ordinance placed a Legislative Committee under the responsibility of the Executive Committee, but at this meeting the Executives recommended revising the ordinances to place legislative matters under the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee. The reasoning was that, 1) most legislative issues involving the county are financial in nature, and 2) the Finance Committee meets monthly whereas the Executive only meets when needed.

Supervisor Ken Keller questioned this move because he felt that this might place county employees in a position to formulate legislative stands for the county. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison countered that any legislative recommendation would still have to come to the County Board for approval and that the suggested arrangement would provide a good measure of checks and balances.

Other, miscellaneous amendments to the County Code of Ordinances were also forwarded to the County Board. These changes remove references to and reverse changes made to the Code several years ago to accommodate the now-defunct Department of Public Works. Other suggested changes were archaic references to things like the BAMC buildings, which the county no longer owns, and other minor word changes that basically clean-up the ordinances.

Mattison updated the Executive Committee on the legal actions connected to former County Administrator Steve Corbeille. Previously, the Executive Committee had authorized her to seek settlement to the suit filed by Corbeille, which had already cost the county a healthy amount in lawyer fees. Mattison then announced that settlement had been reached, amounting to the county paying $15,000. In exchange, Corbeille had agreed to drop all current and future claims.

Last October, the Executive had directed current Administrator Ellen Sorensen to work on creating separate employment manuals for employees and for management. The county had but one manual for both at the time. After consulting with the County’s insurance company and with the Wisconsin Counties Association, it was suggested that the splitting of the one into two was not a good idea. As a result, the Executive Committee voted to retract their prior directive to Sorensen.

Another one of Sorensen’s directives from the Executive Committee last year had been the investigation of moving from a Coroner System to a Medical Examiner system in the County. In response, Sorensen presented a four page document comparing the two, highlighting three possible scenarios.

In the State of Wisconsin, each county individually chooses between one of two death investigation systems: a Coroner system or a Medical Examiner System. Both systems have the same authority under state statute.

With that in mind, Sorensen’s document mentioned these three possibilities:

1. Stay with the current Coroner System;

2. Enter into an arrangement with Brown and Door Counties to develop a regional Medical Examiner System; and

3. Enter into an arrangement with Fond du Lac, Brown and Door counties to develop a wider Regional Medical Examiner system.

The benefit Sorensen saw in scenarios two and three is that there would be access to a board certified forensic pathologist who could also testify at a trial, if needed.

Keller spoke very much in favor of either of the last two scenarios because of what he saw as liability issues for the County. Keller also claimed that the costs with any of the three scenarios were essentially the same.

While the document provided by Sorensen had current costs for services from Fond du Lac, like autopsies, forensic consultation, etc., Supervisors Ted Sauve and Russ Bousley asked for firm number on what the County currently spends on the Coroner System. These numbers were not available at the time of the meeting. Coroner George Smith was also not at the meeting since he was on vacation.

A first it appears that time was going to be an issue with this issue, but the current Coroner term of office, which is an elected official, does not end until the end of 2014. This means the County would have several months to wrestle with this decision. With that in mind, the Executive Committee opted to table the matter for more study.

A question of whether or not to continue including committee meeting minutes in the County Board packet was answered with a “Yes.” County Board Chairman Schroeder questioned it because these minutes are readily available elsewhere. He also mentioned that any recommendation comes directly forward from the individual committee.

In response, Supervisor Sauve commented that he likes to review how things progress through the committee. Supervisor Kathy Just agreed and that the current way of doing things should continue.

Others countered that most minutes of committee meetings do not include documentation of the full discussion on a matter, nor do they include other items discussed at a meeting. In the end, the Committee voted to keep things as they are right now.

Under County Ordinance Code 1.08(9)(k), Supervisor Keller filed a grievance against a Highway Department Committee decision allowing staff members taking county vehicles home. Prior to discussing the grievance, Sorensen announced that Highway Commissioner would cease taking his vehicle home starting May 1, 2013 and leave the vehicle parked at the Highway Shop until he moves into the area. With that announcement, Keller withdrew his grievance. Both Supervisors Russ Bousley and Russ Bauer tried to ask questions under this agenda item, but since it only dealt with Keller’s grievance, those questions were not allowed.


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