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Candidates drop out in Sauk County lawyer search

Sauk County Board Chair Marty Krueger says four candidates for the county's top attorney job have dropped out of the running.

A committee decided Tuesday to postpone the search for a new Sauk County government attorney after multiple applicants apparently dropped out.

The delay means hiring of a new chief legal counsel is likely to fall to members of the next Sauk County Board, which will be elected in April.

In the meantime, county leaders will consider hiring outside help or a limited-term employee to assist the short-staffed Sauk County Corporation Counsel’s office.

The county is seeking a permanent replacement for Todd Liebman, who retired in September after 23 years with the county. Applications initially were due that month, but the deadline was extended into October in an effort to broaden the pool.

Board Chairman Marty Krueger of Reedsburg told fellow supervisors last month there were 11 applicants, of which 10 met the minimum qualifications. He said Personnel Director Michelle Posewitz and Administrative Coordinator Alene Kleczek Bolin chose six to be interviewed.

Krueger said that when Posewitz began to schedule interviews, the field was narrowed from six to two. That’s because two candidates told Posewitz they had accepted other jobs, Krueger said, and two no longer were interested in the position.

Following a closed session discussion last month, the board’s Executive and Legislative Committee decided not to proceed with interviews because of the limited number of remaining candidates. On Tuesday, the committee met in open session to discuss how to proceed with the recruitment.

“I do think that if we’re going to wait six months, we do need help in the corp. counsel’s office,” Supervisor Joan Fordham of Baraboo, the board’s vice chair, said Tuesday.

The committee asked that Kleczek Bolin and interim Corporation Counsel Deb O’Rourke meet and determine the best way to provide the office with additional assistance until the search resumes in April.

The committee also decided to review the county attorney’s responsibilities at a future meeting, and may consider whether the office should contract out for some of its responsibilities moving forward.

It’s not clear why two of the candidates decided they no longer were interested in the position. As far as the two who accepted other jobs, Krueger suggested Tuesday the county’s offering salary was a factor.

“I believe that one of the six folks that had been scheduled for interviews got a job at another county that paid $20,000 more than what we were offering,” Krueger said.

Nursing home expansion

Also Tuesday, the executive and legislative committee agreed to move forward with the selection of a special panel to examine how to develop property surrounding a county-run nursing home in Reedsburg.

The county’s 2018 budget includes $35,000 to study how the property should be used and another $450,000 to design plans for a new facility.

County property taxpayers contribute about $2 million annually to operate the Sauk County Health Care Center nursing home, which mainly serves people from the Reedsburg area.

For that reason, some supervisors have suggested that the county find ways to lower the facility’s property tax burden before the operation is expanded. Prior discussions have focused on the possible addition of an assisted living facility, the revenue from which could help offset the facility’s tax burden.

Krueger said Tuesday he believes the county should consider a broader spectrum of possibilities for the property, including services that could help those impacted by the opioid crisis. He criticized supervisors who have expressed concerns about the nursing home’s tax burden.

“There are some people that see the health care center as a boat anchor that costs the county $2 million a year,” Krueger said. “And that’s the only thing they can see.”

Krueger said he would like the special panel to comprise board members and department managers who oversee a variety of county services. He would like the panel complete its work in three meetings — in January, February and March — and then report back to the board.

Members of the Executive and Legislative Committee voiced no opposition to Krueger’s plan. The committee agreed to consider a resolution to appoint the special panel at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos

Reporter for the Baraboo News Republic.