Attorney Deems Sauk County Board drug testing legal, unnecessary

Interim Sauk County Assistant Corporation Counsel Deb O'Rourke released a legal review Friday of a proposed rule allowing county supervisors to be voluntarily drug tested.

News Republic file photo

A proposed Sauk County Board rule that would establish voluntary drug testing for supervisors is lawful but not necessary, the county’s top attorney says.

In a legal review released Friday, Interim Sauk County Corporation Counsel Deb O’Rourke wrote the board may not mandate testing for its 31 elected members because doing so would violate privacy rights.

“The board may, however, have a rule offering supervisors the opportunity to participate voluntarily in testing for illegal drugs,” she wrote.

That’s what supervisors Wally Czuprynko of Lake Delton and Henry Netzinger of Prairie du Sac have proposed. Theirs is one of 26 rule changes supervisors have suggested for the next two-year term, which begins after a new board is elected April 3.

In her review, O’Rourke identified a number of unknowns about the drug testing rule, including how it would be funded, who would oversee it, what would be done with the results, and whether tests would be random. She also questioned whether it would be a proper use of county resources.

“Any person has the right to take a drug test and make the results public,” O’Rourke wrote. “I see no reason to create something called a rule, which isn’t really a rule governing conduct or procedure.”

The board’s Executive and Legislative Committee was slated to take up suggested rule changes during a meeting last week. However, due to the large number of proposals, the committee opted to postpone the discussion to a special meeting Tuesday night.

O’Rourke said Friday the board could make a statement or pass a resolution encouraging supervisors to be free of drugs, get themselves tested, and make the results public. But she doesn’t think the discussion fits within the parameters of board rules, which are intended to govern how supervisors conduct business.

Czuprynko has said he has no reason to suspect any of his peers use illicit drugs, and the rule would highlight the board’s commitment to new county programs intended to combat the opioid epidemic.

He and Netziner say drug testing would allow supervisors to “show their transparency and respect for those they represent” and “set a good example for the people and employees of Sauk County.”

Supervisor Becky Hovde of Baraboo said she doesn’t necessarily believe that is the true intent of the proposal, and questioned whether it may have been a poor attempt at humor. She said if the rule’s sponsors want to show they don’t use drugs, they can pay for their own testing.

“The people of Sauk County should not be asked to pay for a drug testing mandate that is groundless,” Hovde said. “Are we driving commercial vehicles? Is someone obviously under the influence at the board meetings?”

The committee may make recommendations on proposed rule changes during Tuesday night’s meeting. However, it will be up to the newly elected board to decide in April which ones get adopted.

Among the other proposed changes are several that would tweak the allotted speaking times for supervisors and members of the public at meetings, and alter how motions to end debate are handled.

Seven were recommended by a special panel of supervisors that examined the board’s size and structure. That group has suggested a $400 per month salary for the board’s vice chair, as well as several committee mergers.

It also has recommended the board shrink in size from 31 to 27 supervisors for the term that begins in 2020. The board may reduce its size under state law, O’Rourke said, but that matter should be taken up separately from the adoption of board rules.

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos

Reporter for the Baraboo News Republic.