CommissionMEN Friends Get the Goldmine, Taxpayers Get the Shaft
by Shari Dovale
Bonner County Commissioners held their annual budget hearings this week, setting the budgets for fiscal year 2024 beginning in October.
Don’t worry if you feel like you are behind the 8-ball and not in the loop. Though they tell everyone in their business meetings that the hearings are scheduled, they do not post an itemized agenda, or even tell you they will only post the hearing for a single specific day even if they intend to recess and continue them on multiple later days.
Friday, August 4th was the final day of hearings, and included the discussion/approval of employee bonuses. These are payments above a Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) increase.
Before delving into the Commissioner discussions, we should note that many department heads have indicated that the budget was very tight, therefore extras, including merit bonuses, were not expected to be considered. They felt they should only ask for what they really needed, which were not to include merit bonuses.
Part of the reasons for the tight budget included massive overruns with their Medical insurance, and ICRMP refusing to insure Bonner County for Liability. ICRMP’s refusal is due to the controversies and divisiveness surrounding this commissioner board.
Additionally, let’s not forget that Commissioners are in complete control of the budgets. It is these folks that approve or disapprove of all budgets and spending. We have spent months listening to Luke Omodt and his constant barrage of trying to convince people that he will not raise taxes, does not want higher taxes, fighting to not raise taxes, etc. etc. and yada yada.
Keeping all of this in mind, these two CommissionMEN have made it clear in recent months that they will do whatever the two of them decide. They neither want nor need the third Commissioner to even be a part of the discussion, let alone be a part of the actual vote to decide. Even though the people want her there to fight for their rights, these men are not concerned with anything but their own agendas.
Now let’s move on to the discussion on the county employees and merit bonuses. The only three employees in the county to receive bonuses are the three clerks in the Commissioner’s office. These three people are:
- Jessi Reinbold, who I am told actually made the original requests.
- Veronica Dixon, wife of Representative Sage Dixon, another personal friend of Bradshaw.
- Claire Mays, who actually requested to leave the Commissioner’s office and transferred to Road and Bridge. It is the Road & Bridge budget that will pay for the bonus to Ms. Mays.
The final tally was $6,000 split between all 3. No other employees of the county will receive merit bonuses.
The Commissioner’s office submitted for bonuses for their employees with the reasoning being that they had had ‘a tumultuous year’. These were requested as “enhancements” above their budget, for all 3 employees.
Wow. These two men created this atmosphere of acrimony, vindictiveness, and hostility. Now they want the taxpayers to fund their apologies to their friends in the office for making them deal with the men’s hatefulness.
During the discussion, Clerk Jessi Reinbold showed her frustration and said they didn’t need the bonuses, though she had originally asked for them. She told the commissioners to take these items off the list. However, this would not deter Bradshaw, as he dug in his heels and insisted they would not back off from giving these particular bonuses.
Again, it was not that the other department heads couldn’t be bothered, but they were not encouraged to do so due to the tight financial situation in which the county seems to be. Previous years policies were to have Human Resources (HR) put out blanket statements to all departments to include any bonus they felt worth considering. This was not done this year.
To be sure that the discussion did not include any outside influences, Omodt had to be sure during the meeting to make the point that this was not a townhall, and not open for the public to speak. This was strictly for the Commissioners to discuss and decide. Again, he wants and expects absolutely NO confrontation to his directives. It is just a continuation of his increasingly authoritarian tendencies.
The original agreement (on Thursday, as stated by Omodt) was for a bonus of $1,500 per person for the 3 clerks in the Commissioner’s office. Bradshaw motioned that they increase it to $2,000 per person, bringing it to a total of $6,000. This was after he stated that no other department asked for it and he would not allow them to make changes, like he was doing at that time.
Luke Omodt voted for $1,500 per person, saying he thought they should stick with what they agreed to yesterday. Asia Williams cast her expected vote, which was no to either amount, and this should have ended the discussion completely as there was no consensus. However, Omodt had to take a shot at Williams by suggesting that since she did not vote with him he would therefore vote with Bradshaw and pass the bonuses at the higher amounts.
“That makes it easy for me,” Omodt announced. “In that case I agree with the Chairman. Thank you, I am in support of the 2,000.”
Omodt had to get further digs in, of course, “There you go. Your welcome Commissioner Williams.”
Omodt needed a reason to spend the higher amount, and he needed someone to blame for it. He chose, as is typical, Commissioner Williams. These two men have been spending money for months like water through a sieve, and blaming whoever is handy for these decisions. They continue to waste the taxpayer money, and in this case at least, their friends in their office are the ones benefiting.
*Please note that after the official adjournment of the meeting, Bradshaw went to the clerk to note that it will be $2,000 for Jessi, $2,000 for Veronica, $1,000 for Claire and $1,000 for Alisa. (This is on the recording for you to hear.)
**Alisa R. Schoeffel was hired when Claire transferred to R&B. She began work a few weeks ago, I think maybe in June.