Commissioners should maintain “neutral demeanor” with citizens

At the county commissioners’ retreat, Chairman Marc Boldt asked Marty Snell, director of the Community Development department, to give a refresher on the “commissioner communication process.”

The process was adopted in February 2011 but Boldt felt it was important for Snell to go over it again. Draw your own conclusions.

The goal is to have a uniform process for dealing with residents who don’t get the answer they want from Snell’s department and go to a commissioner to try and get a quick fix.

“There’s been some hit or miss on this, depending on the citizen,” Snell said.

Senior policy advisor Axel Swanson said “we get half of the story, maybe less,” from residents and eight out of 10 times, the complaint is about a state law.

Snell acknowledged there’s room for improvement on the part of the county. Employees who review plans and work at the permit center “see black and white” and are paralyzed at “any hint of gray” within county codes.

“We have to work within the gray,” Snell said.

Still, sometimes residents just aren’t happy.

Commissioner Tom Mielke said some citizens play commissioners and the staff “like kids play mom and dad,” (As in, if one parent says no, ask the other.)

Snell distributed a copy of Article XVIII, subsection B of the Commissioners’ Rules of Practice.

  1. A citizen contacts a commissioner with a question or a complaint.

  2. The commissioner “maintains a neutral demeanor while reviewing issue with citizen. Sets an appropriate time frame for resolution. Refers matter to a Commissioner Associate.”

  3. The “commissioner associate,” (Swanson, Economic Development Director Kelly Sills or Administrator Bill Barron) contacts pertinent staff.

  4. The staff member “approaches issue with a solution-oriented focus, in accordance with the law, and within an appropriate time frame.”

  5. The staff member reports back to the commissioner associate, who reports to the commissioner.

  6. If acceptable, the commissioner follows up with the citizen to share the good news. “If solution is not acceptable, debrief is scheduled.”

  7. If necessary, the commissioner associate schedules the debrief between the staff member and the commissioner.

  8. The commissioner contacts the citizen “to conclude concern or to coordinate meeting or teleconference with relevant staff to address concern.”

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