SIOUX CITY -- During a restroom break Tuesday, a live microphone picked up two Woodbury County supervisors informally chatting about county business, from cutting the sheriff's budget, to the prospects of hiring two new paramedics, to the next step in the county's fight over regional mental health services.
The county records a live YouTube video of each weekly meeting. After the board took a short break, Supervisor Jeremy Taylor forgot to turn off his wireless microphone. A few seconds later, YouTube viewers can hear audio of a conversation between Taylor and board chairan Rocky De Witt while the camera continues to show people milling around the board room.
Taylor began his hot mic comments by joking, "Well, there is a quorum in the bathroom," indicating that at least three of the five supervisors were inside there at the same time.
The video shows Supervisors Matthew Ung and Keith Radig re-entering the board room 30 seconds later. Taylor and De Witt then also returned to the meeting.
In between that time, for about two minutes, Taylor and De Witt spoke about a number of county topics.
In an interview Wednesday, Taylor said he wasn't bothered by the YouTube video picking up the hot mic.
"To me, it is a shoulder shrug. I don't usually like to record myself in the bathroom. It is a non-story," Taylor said.
Asked if he regretted anything he said, Taylor replied, "Not a word. My only regret is recording myself in the bathroom. Not anything I said."
"I don't like that the microphone was left on in the bathroom...Did we say anything improper or illegal? Absolutely not," De Witt added Wednesday. "The things we talked about were items that were already discussed...It was a more cordial conversation than we would have had on the bench."
Early in the hot mic conversation, Taylor referenced his role in leading the county to withdraw from the three-county Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services agency, effective July 1. The move followed a longstanding dispute over funding for a program for at-risk students administered by the Sanford Center of Sioux City.
In his open mic remarks, Taylor referenced Dick Owens, a Sanford Center board member who has repeatedly spoken against the county ending the funding.
"Dick Owens is contacting the NAACP and the ACLU," Taylor told De Witt.
The county has applied to join Rolling Hills, a mental health group comprised of seven smaller counties east of Woodbury. The Rolling Hills board considered Woodbury's request at a meeting Wednesday in Sac City, but took no formal action.
If the county is granted membership, "I think I'll break down and cry," Taylor was heard saying on the hot mic Tuesday, prompting a laugh from De Witt. "It has been a long road," Taylor added.
The restroom break came after the board spent nearly two hours discussing the county budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The majority of Tuesday's discussion was focused on Sheriff Dave Drew's budget.
During the hot mic conversation, De Witt noted the board cut $2,500 from the multi-million budget for the sheriff's department, which includes uniform patrol, investigations, crime prevention and courthouse security.
"Well, I couldn't let Drew not get reduced at all. I mean, come on," Taylor was heard saying on the hot mic.
During its regularly weekly meeting later that afternoon, the board also approved a plan to fund two paramedic positions requested by Emergency Services Department Director Gary Brown in the wake of Siouxland Paramedics ending its 911 ambulance service on Dec. 31. Brown said he will have the paramedics ready to go when the new fiscal year begins.
"Now, the question is, where we're going to get the paramedics? But that is Gary's problem," De Witt said to Taylor in the restroom.