Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Natascha Watercott
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Windemere residents ask questions about resolved lawsuit

 

October 11, 2018



At the September 13 Windemere Township meeting, the board discussed the timeline of the Palon Road improvement project. Tree and brush clearing began on the week of September 17 along with silt fence installation and delivery of culverts. The week of the 24th, they were to work on centerline culvert installation. The week of October 1, they will finish centerline culverts and reclaim roadway. During the week of October 8, they will begin earthwork and ditch grading. The week of October 15, rough earthwork and ditch work will be finished, and they will also place geo-textile road fabric and class-5 gravel. Finally, the week of October 22, they will finish grading work and start final cleanup and project close-out.

“[It’s] a little later than when we first met about this project this summer. They thought they would be here in August, and it got pushed after Labor Day,” noted board supervisor Pete Steen.

Levy certified

The board approved the levy certification that was set back at the annual township meeting in March. The levy was set at $400,000, comprised of $200,000 Revenue and $200,000 for Roads and Bridges. This is a reduction from last year’s levy which was about $700,000, though it was noted that for the last nine years in a row, the township has had more revenues than expenses.

Audit findings reported

A representative from Abdo, Eick & Meyers LLP gave an overview of the township’s external audit report, including a summary of audited financial statements, recommendations and audit findings for the fiscal year 2017 to determine how the township could be more efficient.

The representative explained that the report gives a clean opinion on the township’s financial statements and provides reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of any material misstatements. The auditing process involved looking at cash, taxes, major expenditures and a sample of transactions. They specifically looked at internal controls and compliance with Minnesota state statutes. There weren’t any major findings, but they had a few suggestions.

The representative noted that they found the “Limited segregation of duties” finding during the audit. “What we saw with receipts, disbursements and payrolls is that there’s really just one or two people involved in those processes. With a limited number of staff, that’s a really hard thing to avoid,” she explained. “Over your major transaction cycles – cash receipts, payroll and disbursement – you have to make sure that you have those properly broken out so that no one person has too much control over those major financial areas. Make sure you have checks and balances.”

Within each major transaction cycle, there are a number of categories of duties: authorization, custody, record keeping, etc. Ideally, she explained, different people should perform each function. Due to limited staff, the major transaction cycles have limited segregation of duties. To lessen the potential risk, additional monitoring procedures should be implemented.

Some general recommendations included creating written policies and procedures (such as personnel policies, fund balance policies, etc.) which would add consistency and set guidelines, and the adoption of a formal budget, inventory controls, credit card support and monthly financial reporting.

Pay raise approved

The board approved an agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), Local 49 for increasing the wages of road maintenance workers, who are now part of IUOE. Steen explained that he and Wesley had met with IUOE the previous Thursday. Part-time road maintenance workers are currently getting $21 per hour. Under the new agreement, this will increase to $25 per hour, amounting to about $2,000 more per year per worker.

“I’ve done some research. Based on the numbers from May of 2017 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $25 an hour would probably be in the 70th percentile in the state for wages, so there’s probably a third of the workers in the state that would be receiving a higher wage than them,” explained Steen.

He added that because they are now part of the union contract, the road maintenance workers will also be getting benefits including health insurance and a union pension, which they did not have before the agreement.

Lawsuit information not

yet found

Dave Arneson, along with several other residents, were present to ask questions about the now-resolved lawsuit between the township and Road Maintenance Supervisor Mike Buetow and the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 49.

At last month’s meeting, the board had approved Arneson’s request to have City Clerk Scott Danelski and Treasurer Ron Mossberg meet with him and residents Tom Albrecht and Paul Horgen to review the correspondence and costs related to the lawsuit so that a report could be prepared and ideally presented to residents at the October board meeting. Arneson had stated he wanted to clear up lingering questions about the cause of the lawsuit as well as its cost to the township.

“This has been going on for a long period of time. We’ve tried to get answers out of the board; that means Mr. Mach and Mr. Kirkeby. And one of the things is that we’re missing all kinds of information,” explained Arneson.

Albrecht stated he also wanted answers. “My issue is probably the same one that you’re going to hear from me all the time. I’m still waiting to hear what started the issue between the board and Mr. Buetow that required legal service from Minneapolis … What started, approximately last September, the initial paperwork, or what caused the problem where Mike had to endure what he endured, and why the lawyer in Minneapolis was called. That’s what I’m looking for.”

“I really think that he [the attorney] should have given a packet to the board – because you’re the ones who paid him – that shows all the information that was given to him … he had to look at something to make a decision if he was going to make a case. You guys as a board should have that information and you should be able to give that to us,” said Albrecht. “I’m under the old understanding that the board works for us— we’re the bosses. And we’re missing a lot of information that has not come to us.”

Both Steen and Kirkeby, who had attended several closed meetings with the attorney about the lawsuit against Buetow, acknowledged that there were documents that the attorney had put together for the meetings, but were unsure where those documents were now. They both agreed that this information should have been made public record and were not sure why it hadn’t been.

Arneson asked Kirkeby, who was not at last month’s meeting, if he could clear up the question of why the lawsuit was brought against Buetow in the first place, since he was now there in person. Kirkeby responded that the matter had already been discussed, and that all that information should have been made public record.

“They’re looking for information that’s supposed to be public. I don’t have any [of it]…we went to special meetings and we all got the same information … I don’t have all this information that they think I have,” said Kirkeby. Arneson told Kirkeby that he and other residents had been told previously that they couldn’t have the documents for legal reasons, as the lawsuit was ongoing at the time, and never received them. Now that the lawsuit has been settled however, residents want that information.

“If we’re not going to get the stuff from Mach or Kirkeby, then we’ll have to request it from the attorney,” said Arneson. “I’m assuming that we’re going to have to dig deeper, so this is going to take a lot longer than the October board meeting. We will come up with some figures.”

 

Reader Comments
(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018

Rendered 11/14/2018 10:47