Supervisors Larry Clausen

Woodbury County Board Chairman Larry Clausen, shown at a April 2013 meeting, will exit the board this month after 34 years.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Board on Tuesday changed how it approves expenses after concerns were raised about transparency.

Board members historically have signed bills before the weekly meetings.

James Van Bruggen, executive director of the Taxpayers Research Council, a watchdog group, said the policy removed the process from public view.

“It should be discussed openly in the public before any money is spent on anything,” he said. “Even if it’s just to gather information on a topic, that discussion on what they’re looking for or wanting to do should be in a public manner.”

Assistant County Attorney Joshua Widman told the board Tuesday it should change the policy to meet state law. Statute requires county supervisors to take action by a motion, resolution or ordinance during open session, he said.

The board voted Tuesday to begin approving bills during open session at the weekly meetings.

The move came the same day a dispute arose over whether the five-member board approved spending $1,175 to examine whether a county-owned building at 1211 Tri-View Ave. in Sioux City is suitable for housing county social service workers. County Social Services Manager Patty Erickson-Puttmann said she spoke with each supervisor individually outside of the meeting before proceeding with the planning.

Supervisor Mark Monson, of Sergeant Bluff, during the meeting Tuesday said the board never approved the expenditure.

Van Bruggen said he's concerned money is spent without the board's approval. He said the County Board should establish a policy of having a detailed packet outlining cost issues for each agenda item, similar to those the Sioux City Council and school board use.

"Currently, there is no structure required on what details an agenda item should be required to provide," Van Bruggen said in an email after the meeting. "Oftentimes there is little or even no information available in the agenda packet on an agenda item."

Supervisor David Tripp, of Sioux City, said the dispute over the social services expenditure and the policy change regarding bills has changed the way he will approach such items.

"I’m telling you right now I’m not ever going to discuss anything with anybody unless it’s in this room here," he said, referring to the board's meeting room. "That’s the way it should’ve been always."

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