Charlene Sims, Journal staff
Proposal to split duties of health department head divides commission
MOUND CITY – Since Linn County Public Health Department Administrator Missy LanCaster gave her notice two weeks ago, most discussion about the future of the health department by the Linn County Commission has been conducted in closed-door sessions.
Even on Monday, March 27, as LanCaster’s last day loomed, discussion was vague on the plan for replacing her position. Once she leaves this week, the county commission automatically becomes the public health officer for the county.
On March 20, the commissioners met with LanCaster, Amanda Snyder, and Danielle Casey in executive session individually to discuss personnel concerns.
LanCaster later reported in a telephone conversation that the group had asked to speak to the commissioners about keeping the current health department staff and growing the health department and its services to Linn County residents.
On March 27, the commission did meet briefly again with Snyder, again behind closed doors.
However, from what conversations the commissioners have had in open session, the commission was told by Snyder and Casey that they can save the county money – up to $29,000 – by dividing up LanCaster’s duties between them.
One of the women would be a combination director, administrator and public health officer, and the other one would be the head nurse.
Commissioners decided to have County Clerk David Lamb take the women’s suggestions and develop new job descriptions with those new duties. The issue runs into whether those positions will be advertised publicly or whether the commissioners will keep it in-house and promote those women.
County Counselor Gary Thompson says the county has the option of keeping the jobs in-house or advertising them.
Commissioner Jim Johnson made a motion that the jobs be put out for public advertisement. But his motion died for lack of a second.
Johnson said the two employees would be able to apply for the jobs if they were advertised.
Johnson criticized the request by Snyder and Casey to change the job titles, saying that it was difficult to compare the new positions with that of the current administrator.
“Do you know anything about it over there?” asked McCullough. “I don’t think you’ve been over there.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, again,” Johnson replied.
“You ask everybody except for employees of the county,” McCullough said. “Have you talk to any of them?”
“Not since this. But I have talked to quite a few people,” said Johnson.
“Miami County? Bourbon County? What about Linn County? Why don’t you talk to your employees?” asked McCullough.
McCullough said he favored negotiating with them about the positions and made a motion to do that.
Commissioner Jason Hightower, after saying that he did not get the feeling they were open to negotiation, seconded McCullough’s motion. Johnson voted against it.
During this discussion, McCullough read a letter dated March 22 given to the commission by the staff at the health department. He read:
“Dear Linn County Commissioners,
As employees of the Health Department, we are writing to you to recommend the proposed restructuring of our Department. We feel very confident that Amanda Snyder and Danielle Casey can fulfill the duties of Administrator and Public Health Officer.
"They have proven they are assets to this Department and have great ideas and goals to continue to help us grow. We are not in favor of hiring a new Administrator. Starting over not only sets us back on the progress we’ve made over the last few years, but it also lowers morale and makes us feel uneasy about the future of our own positions.
"Why wouldn’t we invest in and continue to build up our current employees? The likelihood of finding a candidate with the education, experience and expertise that these women possess is slim to none.
"When it comes to the “face of the Health Department” these women are it. When in public, or in the clinic, most assume that they are the Administrator for the simple fact that they interact with clients and carry themselves as professionals.
"Collectively, we have over 55 years of service with the Linn County Health Department. To say we are vested in the success of the Health Department is an understatement. We see the value in these women and know that with their support, we will continue to work as a team to prevent, promote and protect the citizens of Linn County."
The letter was signed by nurses Amber Minchew and Vicki Victor-Baru and clerk Sue Russell.