SIOUX CITY | The outgoing head of the Woodbury County Board on Tuesday proposed paying a consultant to help mediate conflicts between county officials.
"In the last six, seven months, we've not had a good dialogue on the board," said County Board Chairman George Boykin, of Sioux City, during the weekly meeting.
Two elected officials – Sheriff Dave Drew and Auditor Pat Gill – have separately used the public comment portion of weekly board meetings to confront the five-member board about concerns.
Gill has been critical of the board’s handling of a $250,000 courthouse security plan, saying the decision-making process was not transparent to taxpayers.
Drew separately has confronted the board about the courthouse plan, which outsourced security guards. He also has voiced concerns about funding.
The comment section is the part of the meeting set aside for members of the public to question the board. Department heads typically have topics added to the meeting agenda to discuss.
Boykin, as board chairman, determines the agenda. Drew said Boykin won’t add his items to the agenda, which means he has to use the public comment section to get addressed.
Drew and Gill both were elected to their positions.
The conflict has intensified in recent weeks with the addition of County Board member Matthew Ung, who won election in November on a taxpayer watchdog platform. He has confronted the board about how bills are approved and oversight of operations.
Ung has used the public comment section for some of his discussions. He also questioned oversight of the Emergency Services Department, pointing out that a required county commission has not met for years. Last week, Gary Brown, who supervises the department, defended how the agency has been handled.
Boykin, in a memo to board members in advance of the Tuesday meeting, said a third party is needed to bring order to county government.
In the document, Boykin said he understands all five members won't agree on final decisions, but he said they should never feel "ambushed." He prefers that issues are raised in the regular portion of meetings.
Boykin was defeated in the November election by Jeremy Taylor, a Republican. He has been on the board for 30 years. Taylor replaces Boykin in January. Ung was seated early because board member David Tripp resigned.
No decision about the consultant was made Tuesday. Finance Director Dennis Butler said the county's take of casino revenues, which typically are used for one-time expenses, could be used to pay a consultant. It's unclear how much a consultant would cost.
County Human Resources Department Director Ed Gilliland is expected to present options to the board in January.
County Board members Larry Clausen, Mark Monson and Jackie Smith on Tuesday said a third party would help. Ung said he supports Boykin's sentiment that officials work better together, but opposes hiring a consultant.
Smith said the session would be beneficial if other elected officials take part, like Gill, Drew, County Attorney P.J. Jennings and Treasurer Mike Clayton.
"We all need to buy into it, otherwise we are just spinning our wheels," Smith said.
Drew said he's not certain if he'll participate. Gill said he would take part, but thinks no tax money of any type should be used for such a session.
The board on Tuesday also moved to support a plan by Ung to provide more information on bills. Ung said having additional details such as whether the bill was for a one-time purchase or ongoing maintenance would be helpful.
Department heads will work with Gill to finalize what new information will be shared on the bill list. Those details should be settled this month.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Ung supports hiring a consultant.