County Auditor Update - Safe for now but removal is “looming”

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Argument #1 is not an array in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/public_html/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).

Clayton County Auditor Dennis Freitag, left, confers with his attorney Peter Riley, Cedar Rapids, during an October meeting called by the Board of Supervisors to review Freitag’s job performance.

By Pat McTaggart

Freelance writer

His position is safe for the time being but Clayton County Auditor Dennis Freitag could still be removed from office if his job performance does not improve significantly in several key areas.

Freitag has been informed that the Iowa Attorney General will not pursue his removal from office “at this time.” However, a petition is “looming” under Chapter 66 of the Iowa State Code. 

Specifically, Freitag has been advised by the Attorney General’s office to regularly communicate with his office staff, delegate work he is not doing or cannot complete in a timely manner, promptly return phone calls, regularly respond to emails and provide access to county files and documents. He was also advised to refrain from even perceived retaliation against other county employees.

But by improving his performance in these areas, Freitag could “bring this matter to a close.”  Freitag’s work performance is being actively monitored by the Attorney General’s office.

A formal investigation of Freitag’s work performance was launched after an October 26 meeting during which the Clayton County Board of Supervisors questioned the auditor under oath about job-related concerns. Freitag was asked about extended absences from the office, a backlog of more than 1,600 emails, un-cashed checks written to the county, unsent invoices, county documents kept at his home and other matters. A few days following the meeting, the Supervisors asked the state’s highest lawmaker to consider ousting Freitag under Chapter 66, which covers the procedure for removing an elected official from office.  

Freitag, who has been county auditor for more than 40 years, has been caring for his wife, Pam, who has lupus. In the October meeting, he told the Supervisors that he has to take her for dialysis twice a week, and that she could not be left alone, which required him to work at home. He has been mostly absent from the office since June.

Freitag is not on medical leave and continues to draw his full $50,000-plus annual salary. 

An email from the Register was not answered by press time but in earlier comments made to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Freitag said he is trying to “re-evaluate the way” he has been doing things. He said he has hired someone to help with his wife’s care, which has freed him to work Tuesdays and Thursdays in his courthouse office. He said he works other days at home.

Ron McCartney, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, said that he has not seen any improvement in Freitag’s job performance nor is he aware that Freitag has been working at the courthouse.

“The only contact we’ve had with the auditor since June is the October 26th meeting,” McCartney said.  “He has not responded to e-mails. He did not appear for a department head meeting last week.” He added that Freitag was also absent from what should have been a joint meeting with the county treasurer and supervisors on the matter of tax certificate properties. The treasurer did attend, however.

Freitag was in his office last week to run some expense reports that the office staff had already done. McCartney used that as an example of the lack of communication between Freitag and his employees.

The county is in the first stages of preparing the 2016-2017 budget, and McCartney is concerned how the auditor’s absence will impact that process.

“As far as the County budget process, we are well into it now,” McCartney continued.  “The Supervisors are working with department heads on completing and approving departmental budgets. Normally the auditor would then compile the approved departmental budgets into a draft for review by the Supervisors for further adjustments. As of now, I don’t see any indication that the auditor is willing to be a part of that process.”

He added that cities and townships are also waiting for information from the auditor for their own budgets.

The Supervisors have had preliminary discussions with Hacker/Nelson, a Decorah-based auditing firm used by the county, about having their help with completing the budget process. If the county’s auditing firm has to assist, taxpayers will be required to cover a bill that could run into the thousands of dollars. Already, about $14,000 was paid out to a temporary staff person who was brought in to help bring the auditor’s office up to speed in key area.

Register Editor Pam Reinig contributed to this article.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet