WAPELLO — All the Louisa County Public Health Service (LCPHS) staff employed by the Louisa County Board of Health (BOH) should receive salary increases included in the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) budget, board members agreed Monday.
The measure passed on a 3-1 vote and the decision officially puts the BOH on record as supporting the same 2 percent hike for all its staff as that generally being offered to other county employees.
However, the decision may also complicate compensation plans throughout the county, BOH Chair Brad Quigley, who cast the lone negative vote, told the rest of the BOH members.
While Quigley, who also serves as a county supervisor, said he did not object to the 2 percent boost for most of the LCPHS staff, he was concerned about granting that same increase to Assistant Administrator Heidi Pallister.
Quigley said if the increase to Pallister was granted, her proposed salary of $45,672, which would include an additional seniority increase, would top the salaries of several courthouse first deputies who have more seniority.
He said that could lead to increased pressure in the future to boost other salaries and fuel a continuing trend.
“We need to address this issue,” Quigley said, offering a motion to grant 2 percent increases to all the LCPHS staff except Pallister. Other BOH members however said they could not support singling Pallister out for no raise and there was no second to Quigley’s motion.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” BOH member Breanne Hammond said before the vote.
She pointed out the seniority raise in Pallister’s salary is apparently provided to other county employees and needed to be reviewed separately from the regular annual wage increase.
BOH members Whitney Howell and Dr. Suneel Parvathareddy agreed.
“Singling her out is probably not the best thing,” Parvathareddy said.
Joellen Schantz, the remaining BOH member, was not present for the meeting.
Monday’s decision was the latest step in a nearly 20-month contention involving salaries and the BOH. The issue actually began in June 2016 when the BOH approved pay increases for six LCPHS staff members.
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors objected to the increases, but under Iowa law could not stop them from being implemented because it had already approved that upcoming budget.
Eventually however, two BOH members were dismissed from their positions over the issue, but a court case then ensued and has now reached the Iowa Supreme Court on appeal.
Meanwhile, although they rejected Quigley’s proposal to cut Pallister’s salary, the rest of the BOH did agree to his suggestion to review the LCPHS’ current job descriptions and develop new narratives.
He said that was a process other county offices also needed to take.
Interim LCPHS Administrator Roxanne Smith said she would begin the review, even though she was unsure how the BOH wanted to assign staff duties since she has continued working both as a nurse and as the administrator.
In other action, several 4-H students from the L-M School made a presentation on water well testing to the board. Students Logan Campbell, Piper Brant, Jersey Lessenger, Colton Lessenger, Levi Kolmus, Austin Downs and Owen Schreiner, members of the L-M Lego League, said they were inspired to develop the presentation after attending a program that Pallister had presented on well testing. Teachers Abigail Shrader and Tenneil Register accompanied the students.