Winnebago County Supervisor Mike Stensrud said he was “disappointed” and “perturbed” by the performance and decision-making of county engineer Scott Meinders during last week's meeting of the board of supervisors.
“I just want you to know I’m keeping a record of the things that I think an employer should,” Stensrud said to Meinders.
The discussion was sparked when Meinders said he wanted support from the board for the process of hiring new staff members but was the only one who gets to decide who should be hired in the Engineer and Secondary Roads Department with no advice from the board.
“We’re looking for some patience from the board, looking for support during the process,” Meinders said, to which Stensrud suggested if he wanted to get support from the board he should also take some advice from the board on who should be hired.
Meinders said he wanted to talk to the county attorney on that condition.
“Adam…showed me case law where the hiring and firing is the engineer’s responsibility,” Meinders said.
Stensrud said he started taking notes on Meinders’s performance after Meinders’s decision on the stop sign in Scarville, which the people wanted and Meinders and Mark Johnson did not want.
“We’ve had enough incidents since then with a guy up by Thompson, a guy that wants a sign in my district - $700 for a one foot by two foot sign? I don’t think so,” he said. “…I can get it made for $150 DOT-approved. But what it proves to me is you don’t want to work. You want to do things your way and you’re not going to take any – for lack of a better word – advice from the Board. So you can sit here and fight, fight, fight and go back down to your office and ‘I won that one,’ but you’re not the boss. The citizens of the county are the boss.”
Stensrud said he was perturbed, especially after the Rice Lake Country Club sign.
“If you don’t have any more logic than that, if your syllogistic skills are not any better than that, you have no business being our engineer,” he said.
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After more than 15 minutes of Stensrud and Meinders arguing about how well Meinders has been doing his job and making decisions, board members decided to finish the discussion in a closed meeting at a later date.
After the meeting, Supervisor Chairman Terry Durby said he didn’t want to take a side one way or the other and would prefer talking with Meinders one-on-one.
“I have my own opinions that I would like to talk to him about one-on-one,” he said. “I’m not saying [Meinders] is doing a bad job, but we’ve always talked and worked through things, and that’s the way I like to work.”
Stensrud later said he had no problem with Meinders as far as how he does his job, but because they (the supervisors) work for the public, these things have to sometimes be said in the public, no matter if it’s a big problem or a small problem.
“As far as trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, this is a molehill in my opinion and nothing more than that,” Stensrud said. “I want to emphasize this: I have no issue with [Meinders] except for the one thing I brought up. It’s a minor issue; it really is…I wish it was something we could take care of in the background but when you’re forced by public meeting laws you have to deal with these things in the public eye.
"So I had to let Scott know I disagree with him in this one issue and hope we can work together going forward.”
Meinders said he wants the best for Winnebago County and has a “knowledgeable staff, a professional code of ethics, policies and procedures, and a great network of fellow professionals” to help guide him through important decisions.
“I am thankful every day for the opportunity the Board gave me to be the County Engineer,” he said. “I was surprised and disappointed with the meeting on Tuesday.
"But I am committed to resolving any disagreements, providing better customer service and being a better listener and teacher.”