Colfax Village Board learns Rundle hired for public works

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  The Colfax Village Board has learned that Tim Rundle has been hired as the third full-time permanent public works employee.

Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, and Rand Bates, director of public works, hired Rundle, who has an official start date of February 1 for full-time employment with the village.

Village Trustee Keith Burcham pointed out at the Colfax Village Board’s January 23 meeting that according to the employee handbook, Niggemann and Bates cannot hire a “non-department head employee” and that the employment must be approved by the village board. 

During the training requests portion of the meeting, Burcham voted “no” on a motion to send Bates and Rundle to the 2017 Utility Conference sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Conference Center in Rice Lake February 15. 

Later on in the meeting, Burcham explained that he could not in good conscience vote to spend money to send someone to a conference who has not officially been hired by the village according to the rules established in the village’s employee handbook. 

The Colfax Village Board approved creating a full-time employee position for the department of public works at a beginning wage of $16 to $19 per hour during a meeting October 3.

Prior to this, the village had employed a part-time public works person and also had used additional temporary part-time employees. 

Keinn Steffe previously was employed as a 32-hour per week public works employee and started his employment with the village already certified as a water and wastewater operator. 

Steffe accepted a full-time position in Ridgeland last fall, and the village was unable to find another person willing to work part-time. 

Prior to Steffe leaving for full-time employment, the Colfax Village Board had been unwilling to create another full-time position for the department of public works.

In addition to Bates and Rundle, Don Logslett, street supervisor, also is employed as a full-time permanent employee in the department of public works.

Although Rundle’s official start date is February 1, he has already been working for the village part-time.

Applicants

While the village received 20 applications all together for the full-time public works employee, only a few of the applicants were “strong candidates,” said Scott Gunnufson, village president.

Niggemann and Bates screened the applications and interviewed the applicants, he noted.

Rundle can run all of the heavy equipment, Bates said, adding that Rundle had previously been employed by Century Fence and also has a good mechanical background. 

Knowing how to run the equipment is important, but knowing how to fix the equipment and knowing when there is something wrong with the equipment is equally as important, Bates said.

Village board members agreed that having a good mechanical background could, in the long run, end up saving time and money for the village.

Employee handbook

Although the agenda included a closed session for performance evaluations of the public works employee and director, the rescue squad director and the administrator-clerk-treasurer as well as a discussion of wages and salaries for village employees, the Colfax Village Board decided not to go into closed session.

A special joint meeting of the village board and the village board’s personnel committee would be a better solution to conducting the performance evaluations, Gunnufson said.

The village board’s personnel committee is made up of the entire village board.

The employee handbook should also be discussed and amended, Gunnufson said.

Although Gunnufson, Niggemann and Bates initially disagreed with Burcham’s assessment of the statement in the employee handbook concerning the village board voting on the approval of hiring employees, after Burcham read the specific section out loud, it became clear that under the current rules, the village board must approve the final hiring of “non-department head” employees.

Several village board members agreed that the intent of the employee handbook was to allow the administrator-clerk-treasurer and the department head to screen and interview applicants and hire employees without any oversight, participation or approval from the village board. 

The Colfax Village Board agreed to hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. January 30 in closed session to conduct the performance evaluations.

From the discussion, it was not clear whether the village board intended that the consideration of the employee handbook would be included in the closed session agenda, but under the state’s Open Meetings law, discussion of the employee handbook would have to be conducted in open session.

Implementing a closed session under Wisconsin Statute 19.85 (1)(c) for considering the employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction pertains to specific employees and not to general employment policies. 

Several days after the village board meeting, Niggemann confirmed for the Messenger that the discussion of the employee handbook would be conducted in open session.