The Assessor Strikes Back

A week after county commissioners questioned a vacancy request by Assessor Peter Van Nortwick, they welcomed him and his chief deputy, Linda Latto, to board time on Wednesday.

The request had already been cleared by the county’s vacancy review panel. But commissioners — led by Steve Stuart — questioned the request on Dec. 7 in light of Van Nortwick’s testimony at the Nov. 29 public hearing on the admissions tax that he was trying to save money by not filling two vacancies.

By board time, Van Nortwick had already met with Stuart.

The mood was light. Commissioner Marc Boldt came out to the waiting area to greet Van Nortwick and Latto after commissioners finished an executive session.

“You have an appeal to the board?” asked Boldt, smiling.

Van Nortwick told Boldt, Stuart and Tom Mielke that two people retired, one from personal property and one from residential. He said he’s doing a “mini reorganization” of the office to be more efficient. The people who retired were appraiser 3s, and he wanted to do an internal posting to allow an appraiser 2 to move up.

The vacancy request is for a 12-month project position to oversee a transition from a manual to electronic process.

“We may ask for an extension, but we want to get eight to 10 months down the road,” to see if the position will need to be permanent, Latto said.

Stuart asked what would happen to the employee who gets shifted into the position.

If at the end of 12 months there’s no need to keep it, the person would be bumped back into his/her old position, Latto said.

“The confusion was Peter saying we’ve decided not to fill vacancies and then we received a vacancy request,” Stuart said.

“We will always have two open positions,” Van Nortwick said.

Commissioners granted the request, but Mielke did have one question for Van Nortwick.

“Do you have enough money in your budget to fill the positions?” Mielke asked.

Yes, Van Nortwick said.

Make that two questions.

“Can we have that money back?” asked Mielke with a laugh.

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