VSO file (copy)

In November 2017, Columbia County Veterans Service Officer Richard Hasse arranges new flags in the display case outside the Veterans Service Office on the first floor of the county's Administration Building.

An outside attorney’s investigation into the operations of the Columbia County Veterans Service Office is over, because Veterans Service Officer Richard Hasse agreed to retire rather than face the possibility of being fired.

But Attorney Andrew Phillips said he is still looking into “organizational, financial and personnel” issues regarding the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.

At Monday’s meeting of the County Board’s Executive Committee — the body charged with oversight of the Veterans Service Office — County Board Chairman Vern Gove of Portage said interviews for Hasse’s successor will be conducted Monday. Two days later, the County Board will be presented with a recommendation for hiring a new Veterans Services Officer.

According to Gove, about 12 to 15 people have applied for the post, although not all applicants will be interviewed.

Rebekka Cary, Columbia County’s assistant veterans service officer, confirmed to the Executive Committee that she’s a candidate.

“My interview is scheduled,” she said.

Cary has been the acting officer since the beginning of this year, and Marquette County Assistant Veterans Service Officer Rick Erickson has been hired to help her on a part-time basis.

Erickson also had expressed interest in applying for the Columbia County post.

Hasse had been suspended with pay since September and the Executive Committee voted last month to recommend the County Board fire him.

By state law, in a county with no executive, administrator or administrative coordinator, such as Columbia County, the County Board has full authority over the hiring and firing of the veterans services officer.

But the recommendation to fire Hasse is moot because Hasse agreed to retire, said Corporation Counsel Joseph Ruf.

Phillips said he does not yet know what, if anything, county officials want him to do with the report he had planned to compile about the operations of the veterans service office — a report that entailed interviewing not only county employees, but also veterans and their families served by the office.

Phillips said the report would not be ready for presentation in time for the June 19 County Board meeting. Nor will his report-in-progress on the Health and Human Services Department. For that report, Phillips said he’s talked to about 30 people so far, including “members of the public and other interested parties.”

Phillips said county officials haven’t told him when they want to see his report on the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We don’t have a strict deadline, but I think everybody wanted this sooner rather than later,” he said.

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde or contact her at 608-745-3587.


Portage Daily Register Reporter

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