Floyd County supervisors give nod to new part-time assistant county attorney position
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Floyd County supervisors agreed to the county attorney’s request to hire an additional assistant county attorney and continued discussing the remaining decisions to be made as the Law Enforcement Center and courthouse update project winds down, at the board’s regular meeting Monday morning.
The supervisors also spent considerable time discussing a proposal for a new $5 million countywide first responder communications system, which was covered in a story in Tuesday’s Press.
County Attorney Todd Prichard, who took office the end of March, was appointed by the supervisors as a part-time county attorney so he could also continue his private practice.
He said at the time that the savings in his part-time compensation compared to the previous county attorney’s full-time compensation might be enough to hire an additional part-time assistant county attorney, to work with current full-time Assistant County Attorney Randy Tilton.
Prichard took office at a salary of $84,000 without health care insurance and agreed to not take a pay increase July 1, the beginning of the county’s new fiscal year, when most other county employees will get annual raises.
The previous county attorney, Rachel Ginbey, who resigned to take a similar position in Hancock County, was being paid a salary of $114,005, which would have increased to $116,775 on July 1.
Prichard said he wanted to hire Kalliope Genzler for about $45,000.
“She’s from the area, just graduated from Nebraska Law School,” Prichard said, adding that she would start out on “beginning attorney issues for us – juvenile law issues and magistrates court to kind of get her feet wet and help to spread the load amongst me and Randy.”
Prichard said a more immediate need was to replace Melissa Pitzenberger, his secretary and office manager, who had resigned to work for the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, effective June 12.
“She’s key,” Prichard said. “She keeps all the court filings going. It’s a very important position for the work flow.”
Prichard said he wanted to hire Elizabeth Knecht, who is currently an administrative assistant at the Charles City Police Department, starting June 26 at a pay rate of $21.60 an hour, increasing to $22.25 an hour a week later on July 1 when 3% county pay increases for most employees take effect.
He said the file management system the County Attorney’s Office uses was the same one the Police Department uses, “so it will be a fairly smooth transition as compared with somebody that doesn’t have any experience with our systems.”
Supervisor Chair Mark Kuhn asked if the hires Prichard was proposing fit within the previously established budget for his office.
Prichard said they did, but County Auditor Gloria Carr pointed out that was only true if you included the cost of health insurance, which the previous county attorney had.
The difference in salaries between Ginbey and Prichard is only $32,775, but the cost to the county of a family health insurance plan is an additional $20,322, Carr said.
Prichard said he hadn’t intended on Genzler, as a part-time employee, getting county health insurance, and he would likely offer her health coverage through his own private law firm, as she will also be working for him in private practice.
Carr said, “It’s a different thing to think you’re going to hire part-time people and pay them more because they’re not taking insurance, so that’s kind of new territory for us.”
Carr also questioned paying Knecht more than $2.50 an hour more than the $19.60 an hour Pitzenberger had been making after she had been working for the county for several years.
Prichard said he views the position as a legal secretary job, and the pay was comparable to what private legal secretaries make.
“She’s absolutely critical in terms of what she’s doing. To me she’s a skilled legal secretary. That’s what this position requires. It requires people to file things with the court, to understand how the flow works, and prepare documents for filing,” Prichard said. “It’s a difficult job. It’s not something that people just come in and do off the street.”
Supervisor Jim Jorgensen asked if hiring someone at that salary would make other county employees in similar positions seek similar pay levels.
Carr said, “Absolutely it will. I guarantee it.”
Supervisor Dennis Keifer said if Prichard wants to make the hires and they fit within his budget he should be allowed to do it.
Creating a new position such as part-time assistant county attorney requires passing a resolution, Carr said, adding that it could be on the agenda for next Monday’s meeting.
In the meantime, the supervisors gave Prichard an unofficial consensus OK to offer the positions to his preferred applicants.
Also at the meeting this week, the supervisors heard from Carr that the punch list – a list of items that must be finished before a project is considered complete – on the courthouse update project was supposed to have been created last week, but was rescheduled to next Monday.
The board also continued discussing potential landscaping options for the area between the new atrium and the the street.
Supervisor Keifer said he had talked with Jeff Otto, owner of Otto’s Oasis, about getting a large planter to act as a required barrier to prevent vehicles from crashing through the glass front of the atrium, but Otto had suggested planting a couple of ornamental flowering trees and using two large boulders that had already been placed there as part of the landscaping.
Action will await getting potential prices from Otto.
The board also agreed to purchase new chairs for the supervisors’ board room. Supervisor Kuhn said he had a nostalgic attachment to using the chairs that had been used when the boardroom was on the second floor of the courthouse, but he would go along with the other two supervisors who thought it was time for new chairs.