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Johnson County Supervisors meeting ends after disagreement between Sullivan and Slockett

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | OCTOBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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What began as standard parliamentary procedure quickly turned into a heated dispute at Thursday’s Johnson County Board of Supervisor’s meeting. High tensions over the meeting’s final topic resulted in an early adjournment by Supervior Chairman Rod Sullivan.

Discussion and disputes centered on nearly $70,000 in election voting technology upgrades by County Auditor Tom Slockett. A near-shouting verbal argument among Sullivan, Supervisor Janelle Rettig, and Slockett ensued. Other supervisors remained on the sidelines as conversations escalated.

“We have a buy-local policy,” Sullivan said, addressing Slockett. “You do not have authority to spend reserve money. You blatantly violated the trust of the Board of Supervisors and the people of Johnson County.”

After his Dec. 16, 2011, request for 70 laptops was denied and reduced to five at a cost of $4,130, Slockett proceeded to purchase the 70 computers, with the addition of 70 printers, 70 scanners, and at least 50 computer cases. No formal purchase bid was made.

“It never occurred to me not to purchase them because we need them to keep [voting] lines from forming,” Slockett said of the $69,350 bill. “The funds were set aside in the technology fund.”

Slockett referenced the 2010 election in which there were “historic lines” at the voting polls. He said Iowa has voting lines open longer than most states because people are still waiting in line to vote at 9 p.m. Nonetheless, Slockett spoke highly of Johnson County in regards to voter turnout.

The recent spending was over the approved budget by about $58,000. Rettig asked Slockett what he saw as the purpose of budgeting as well as if there were more unapproved claims the supervisors were not aware of.

“I don’t think I understand the question,” Slockett said. “I was not prohibited in any way to purchase computers. We have $115,000 available during budget period aside.”

Attempting to clear up the ensuing miscommunication between the auditor and the supervisors, Rettig turned to Information Technology Director Jean Schultz.

After being asked what is done after computers are purchased, Schultz responded that laptops are shipped to her department. Adding to the confusion, Schultz said, she was not immediately aware of the purchase of the 70 laptops.

“I haven’t seen them,” she said. “I’ve only seen the invoices.”

The auditor’s Cerro Gordo County technology purchases also came under fire by Sullivan; addressing the five-digit price tag, Slockett challenged the supervisors to find a better price in Johnson County. Despite his argument, Sullivan emphasized the importance of purchasing within the community.

The overruling adjournment by Sullivan stirred some disagreement among board members, most notably Supervisor Terrence Neuzil, who spoke of the importance of resolving the issue during Thursday’s meeting. He said he hopes to see the discussion continue during next week’s meeting.

Slockett’s remaining time as auditor is quickly coming to a close. On Jan. 2, 2013, Slockett will turn over his duties, as he was defeated by current Tiffin City Councilor Travis Weipert during the June primary. Weipert is running uncontested for the auditor position in the general election.


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