Zoning Officer Dispute With County Goes to Executive Session
By TONY CARTON | For The Prairie Advocate News
MOUNT CARROLL – The Carroll County Grievance Committee met Wednesday, December 4 to discuss an employee grievance with former county zoning officer Julie Yuswak.
Yuswak said she filed the grievance when the job she held for 13 years was eliminated as of December 1.
“Actually, what the grievance is, is that if they are eliminating the job I should have been at least offered the job because I could do the job,” said Yuswak. “They basically put the zoning office and the GIS office together and they never offered it to me at all.”
GIS is the county mapping department and incorporates geographical features with tabular data in order to map, analyze, and assess real-world problems.
Carroll County administrator Michael Doty said the position of zoning officer was eliminated from the budget as a workforce reduction at the last county board meeting when the board approved the budget.
“The position is eliminated,” said Doty. “It was not funded as of December 1, which is when our fiscal year started. The county has opted to merge the zoning officer into the GIS department and so our GIS person will pick up those duties.”
Yuswak said whether the young man now responsible for mapping in Carroll County can also manage her former zoning duties remains to be seen.
She said her specific duties include providing zoning information upon request, receiving applications for building and occupancy permits and reviewing such applications to determine if they comply with the ordinance provisions. She said she was also responsible for issuing or denying permits, receiving applications for special use permits, variances and amendments, referring such applications to the appropriate public hearings, and publishing notice of such hearings, conducting inspections, investigating violations, keeping the zoning map and text up to date and assisting with implementation of planning and development plans and projects.
“They are claiming the elimination of my job to be a cost saving measure, but they were paying the young gentleman who currently does the GIS more than they were paying me and had they kept me they could have saved more money than what they did by offering the job to him,” Yuswak said.
She said there is no compensation or severance package associated with her termination.
“I am just laid off,” Yuswak said.
Doty said the grievance committee session is not open to the public because it involves a personnel issue and those issues are exempt from the open meetings process.
“In our county code we have basically an avenue for employees that are not unionized to go to if they want to file a grievance or complaint against the county and that is what Julie Yuswak has done,” said Doty. “She is afforded the opportunity to get in front of a committee and it will be an executive session.”
The Carroll County Grievance Committee consists of one county board member, one department head and one employee.
Doty said county board member Paul Hartman, county treasurer Diane Powers and health department office manager Dawn Holland comprise the committee.
“Because the committee is appointed by the county board chair we have to formally announce the meeting, but it will be recorded as minutes of an executive session and any personnel issues are not ever released,” Doty said. “You just cannot release personnel information because there are laws that protect employees, so we will have an executive session and the public will be asked to leave while the committee meets.”
He said the meeting is an opportunity for Yuswak to voice her concerns.
“Not every entity has that,” Doty said. “It is just another layer that the county decided to put in place years ago to keep it similar to what our unions have. They have a similar kind of grievance process and this kind of makes it a level playing field so our non-unionized employees have an opportunity to be heard.”
He said if, after the meeting, the committee has a recommendation, it will be presented to the county board at its next meeting. In the meanwhile, by law the members of the committee are not permitted to discuss their findings.
The Carroll County Board will next meet on Thursday, December 19 at 9:30 A.M. in the small courtroom in the Carroll County courthouse.