The Hot Beat


The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him:

Supervisors: Merry Christmas to us!

The Supervisors will on Tuesday decide whether to repeal a March resolution that turned them into part-time employees of Linn County, effective Jan. 1.

If they repeal it, the new Board of Supervisors will start Jan. 2 with salaries of $89,522 each.

The part-time resolution was the only way for the supervisors to reduce their own salaries after a heated, tangled controversy in which the county “Compensation Board” gave them a 6 percent raise even though the board of supervisors is expanding from three to five members.

Public outcry was significant. The Comp Board (it’s a 7-member board appointed by the elected officials whose salaries it decides) decision was particularly frustrating to those who’d pushed for a five-member board thinking it would mean the salaries of the three supervisors would be split among the five.

The supervisors (who made no argument to the Comp Board for their salaries to be cut) at first pinned responsibility on the Comp Board, then tried to get the Comp Board to reconvene and cut their salaries. When the Comp Board refused, the supervisors passed a resolution making themselves part-time, a move they said would reduce their salaries to about $70,000, but not until the five-member board took office Jan. 2.

It was a jerry-rigged solution, but it put the controversy to rest, or at least on simmer, through the primary and general elections.

Now, two days before Christmas and 11 days before the new five-member board takes office, the supervisors might repeal the resolution.

If they do in fact repeal it, their salaries will be restored to $89,522 per year unless the Comp Board decides to cut their wages. This has never happened before, but Linda Langston said the new board will meet early next month to forge a recommendation for the Comp Board.

Unless they recommend a cut, and the Comp Board accepts the recommendation (those are both pretty big ifs), the supervisors will have received not a single paycheck under the reduced salary.

Filed under: County Government, , , , , ,

13 Responses

  1. Ben Rogers says:

    Until the flood on June 13th, no issue held the voters attention more than the 6% raise awarded to the Supervisors by the County Compensation Board. Because the County Supervisors appointed members of the Commission, the 6% raise seemed to be cronyism, friends taking care of friends. Changing the Compensation Board would require action from the State Legislature and we do not have time to wait for them to act.

    I say take the possibility of cronyism out of the system. I will recommend to the other members of the Board of Supervisors that we allow a non-partisan, good government organization, such as the League of Women Voters to fill the seats that were previously appointed by the supervisors. For instance assuming we have two additional seats, the Supervisors would receive three names from the League of Women Voters. The Supervisors would appoint two of the names forwarded by the League. That way the voters can be assured that the Commission members are acting in the best interest of the County without regard to who sits in the elected official’s seats. I would encourage the other elected officials who appoint members of the Compensation Board to follow a similar process.

  2. Brent Oleson says:

    Good thoughts Ben, I will start looking at some of your initial proposals.

    Like the Westdale issue, I will do my due diligence on this salary issue. Gather the facts, talk to community leaders and constituents, and formulate my position on a salary board recommendation for later this January.

    I have always maintained that we must have a full-time Board of Supervisors, especially now with the rebuilding of our community and county over the next decade. So in that regard, tomorrow’s vote takes us in that direction.

    A discussion issue going forward may be what the public thinks of current salaries for our elected officials (I think these numbers are close: Co. Atty. at around $139,000, Sheriff at $110,000, Supervisors, Treasurer, Recorder, Auditor at $89,000). Thoughts?

  3. Ruth Lion says:

    “It builds up some goodwill with me,” Brent Oleson said when Linda Langston gave up her seat on the Linn County Solid Waste Board, as reported in Gazette on December 17th. 2008.
    I wondered at the time what he meant. Here are two savvy political professionals. One is a former aide to the Republican minority leader of the Iowa House; the other a seasoned county supervisor. They know how to make deals.
    In response to learning that the Supervisors were going to ask the Compensation Commission to repeal the resolution that reduced the Supervisors salary, Oleson says in his blog posting that he will conduct his “due diligence on the issue.” Oleson will, “talk to community leaders… to formulate my position on the issue.”
    We are in the worst economic recession of our lifetime. This isn’t a matter for study. This is a time for leadership and fiscal conservatism, not back room deals.

  4. Curt Zingula says:

    Deception is the real story. What kind of person tells the taxpayers they will take a pay cut and then wait until after the election to rescind that cut?
    With gerrymandering and salary deception in mind, those voters who re-elected the three supervisors in question should be reminded before the next election – fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

  5. Seth says:

    This story doesn’t mention the reasons behind the vote to rescind the resolution, are there any?

    On the surface, it surely seems like political trickery to me.

    Where else can you almost double the staff without increasing the workload and give out 6% raises to boot? Only in government I guess!

  6. Brent Oleson says:

    Another question to consider and one I am asking community leaders and constituents as I do my due diligence on this matter:

    Should Supervisors make the same as the other county elected officials, more, or less (currently they make the same as the Auditor, Treasurer, & Recorder)? Should the Auditor make more than all the above? Should the Treasurer make more than the Recorder, but not the Auditor? Should each of the elected officials make different salaries? Should the Supervisors, Auditor, Treasurer, and Recorder all make less? Should the Supervisors reduce all the county elected officials salaries after the compensation board meets? What should the salaries be for each position? Thoughts?

  7. kevin k says:

    Any Linn County Supervisor should be embarrassed of what has happened today. 60 Minutes should do a story on this. Before an election, promise to reduce your salary. Then there is one of the worst natural disasters in US history right smack in the middle of your county. After the election, you increase your salary like nothing ever happened. The county is in a very bad financial crisis. And, you are adding two more salaries to the payroll. Have you no shame sir? Have you no honor. Your county is hurting. Your people are hurting, and you have the naive thought of negotiating a bigger salary (for yourself) on the argument against other elected officials that actually run a count department -have actual day-to-day duties and employees that report to them directly and carry out the citizens’ business. You attend meetings, vote and make policy. You have no regular office hours. You are no different than a state legislator who mostly works for a living (outside the legislature and serves their constituents honorably. This by far the worst start to a newly elected Linn Count government ever- not even close. And, you are a participant. As a Republican, I am ashamed of how you have acted on this. Your newly elected Democrat colleague has boldy asked for a reduction in salary. You are just another corrupt pol trying to milk the taxpayers who voted for you for as much as you can. Have fun in your first and obviously only term.

  8. Seth says:

    Re: Brent’s Comment

    I would suppose that the ratio of Supervisor pay to other elected’s pay would have to be dependent upon workload and direct responsibilities (as opposed to a higher-level oversight role).

    Admittedly, I have never walked a week in the shoes of an elected Supervisor, so it is hard for me to judge whether they deserve more or less than the other elected officials. Having now been elected, and I assume introduced to the various tasks you will be responsible for, how do you feel about the workload required? Does it justify the pay?

    In general, I believe that any elected official’s pay should be less than that which they could receive for a similar role in private business. I don’t believe anyone should run for an office to make money, it should be to serve the community and act as a steward of good government. Perhaps that is a naive position, but I hope that others would agree.

    Also, I believe ANY raise in pay during our current economic downtrend seems to be irresponsible. There are MANY of us working folks that have gone a year here or there without pay increases due to tough economic times, I dont think it would be out of line to expect the same from our officials. Yes it stinks, believe me I know, but I think sometimes sacrifice is required for the common good.

    Looking over some older news stories, I’ve come across an article which has Linn County’s Supervisor pay at $64,347.00 in 2001 ( If this number is accurate, I would certainly like to know what responsibilites have been added within the last 7 years to justify a $20k raise over that same time period!

    This topic will surely be discussed heatedly over the next month or two.. thank you Brent and Ben for coming here to comment on the issue. I hope that continues once you’ve taken office.

  9. Curt Zingula says:

    Re: Seth’s comments,
    Regarding the additional responsibilities the supervisors use to justify 7% annual pay hikes, Linda Langston claimed at last January’s comp. board hearing that she needed to be paid for time spent assisting presidential campaigns. Langston also claimed that she has a special ability to command an audience with Washington Senators when she walks into their offices (I found our congressmen to be very accomodating when I went to DC and I never considered that I had a commanding presence!). Jim Houser claimed that the e-911 board took much of his time, although the records will show that he exceeded the state allowed responsibilities for the chair of that committee. I’m also told that Houser has listed Kennedy basketball games as part of his work load – perhaps he found someone to discuss county issues with?
    Then there are the overall budget increases which I remember as something like 8% annual increases for the last six or seven years. Why wouldn’t you give yourself 7% annual increases in salary if you are doling out money at that clip?
    As far as using the floods to justify higher salaries, a lot of us spent extra time dealing with mother nature’s fury in 2008 and won’t get paid anything extra. I would just like to get paid for the time I spent opening county roads because of the snow. Instead, the County paid me back by turning the snow plow around when they got to my road – apparently with the expectation that I should continue clearing the road myself!

  10. Deb says:

    I’d like to see the taxpayers do what the founder’s did…REVOLT.
    Instead of higher pay and more supervisors, demand that the insane amount of regulation and restriction imposde by the county be repealed. Stop taxing for services no one wanted in the first place. Stop telling people how wide the tread of the stairs has to be, so people will build in this county, instead of going to the next one over.
    We don’t NEED more supervision, or supervisors. We need LESS governing.
    Impeach them all and move forward.

  11. homeytheclown says:

    This stunt trumps everything in recent government history for the stench of their actions. The three amigos did their little “feel good dance” by telling people they were cutting their salaries…….because they were taking heat and wanted to get re-elected……knowing full well that they would never take a pay cut; wink, wink, because they would do away with the plan after the election.

    The time has come to put in action a recall vote to remove these charlatans from office. They have violated the public’s trust for the final time.

  12. Sarah Little says:

    It’s unfortunate the BOS are only thinking of themselves.
    I wish they would stop thinking like the city. If they want to be like the city, run for city offices. They need to start thinking what the citizens of Linn County need/want.
    It’s going to be interesting when negotiation starts for the employees of Linn County. I bet when it comes to their wages, they won’t have any money for them.

  13. Julie Harrelson says:

    It looks like the only one with half a brain is Ben Rogers. Hold fast to your beliefs Ben. It sounds, from his own words, that Brent Oleson will be no better than the other three. I think his comments sound like many politicians, Blah,blah,due diligence,blah,discussion,blah,gather facts. In his summation, do you get the idea he is agreeing with the three “wise-people”. He’s missing the fact that there is ONE sheriff,ONE auditor, One recorder, etc. The BOS are becoming arrogant.
    This is evident by Houser’s comment on charging the county for mileage. The only thing I disagree with Ben on, is allowing the supervisors to choose at all. They have proven they can’t be trusted and they don’t deserve to pick ANYONE. Total impartiality, and not from high payed attorneys and the like. If a recall vote would be possible, the citizens could regain our power…oh wait, they seperated the quadrants, the people cannot vote for the five preferred candidates. NOOO. They made it very difficult to get these three out. They counted on name recognition. Ben, hang tough…Sarah, you go, girl.

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