Archive for the ‘Office hours’ Category

Why do Linn Supervisors skip their own meetings?

August 30, 2018

Why do Linn County Supervisors skip their own Board meetings? Because they can. And if the Supervisors could not attend their meetings by phone, their attendance might be worse. Or the meetings might be cancelled for lack of a quorum.

A five member Linn County Board of Supervisors (BOS) allows any two supervisors to be gone while the three remaining supervisors conduct a meeting. This is the same structure that allowed a former supervisor to miss a number of meetings to become the president of NACO, which ultimately led to her taking a full-time job with NACO.

I have never understood why anyone would schedule a BOS meeting knowing they had a conflict with it. There is no requirement to hold BOS meetings on Monday (9am), Tuesday (9am), and Wednesday (10am); and nothing forbids holding meetings on Thursdays and Fridays, or over the lunch hour, or in the afternoons, or after 5pm.

Congratulations to Supervisor Chairman Harris who attended 100% of the BOS meetings from 1/1/2018 – 8/31/2018. During that time period, Supervisors Walker and Oleson missed 16 of 97 meetings; and Rogers and Houser missed 7 and 6 meetings, respectively.

I have a suggestion: Reduce the number of meetings and/or schedule them when you can achieve 100% attendance. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

P.S. The Auditor’s Office has been tracking Board attendance since 1/1/2013 because the Auditor’s Office incurs costs every time the Board meets.

Copy of BOS Attendance.xlsx

Linn County offices closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday

November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Linn County Offices Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday

Most County government offices will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 23, and Friday, Nov. 24, for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The following services will continue to operate:

  • Juvenile Detention and Diversion Services
  • Linn County LIFTS will be closed Nov. 23 but will operate reduced routes in Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Marion on Friday, Nov. 24 (no rural service).
  • The Sheriff’s Office will be closed; however, continuous operations will be available for routine and emergency responses. This includes the Patrol Division, Communications Division and the Correctional Center. In an emergency, always dial 911.

Early voting in the Cedar Rapids Runoff election continues through 5pm today (11/22) at the Auditor’s Office. It will resume at 8am on Monday, November 27th. If you live in Cedar Rapids, you can request an absentee ballot by filling out the form at – no printer/paper required. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

$103K per year for 3 hours per week

June 16, 2017

OK, that headline is not fair. But the purpose of a headline is to get you to read the story. And the story here is about whether the Linn County Board of Supervisors (BOS) needs to meet three times per week.

From time to time over my past ten years as Auditor, I have asked the BOS to consider scheduling less public meetings. I usually bring it up when they complain about the cost of publishing their meeting minutes in the County’s four official newspapers. Why does the BOS need to meet three times per week? Maybe they could get their public work done in two meetings per week? And in some weeks, they could get their work done in one meeting per week. In fact, in one week earlier this year, they had one meeting via telephone that lasted five (5) minutes.

If you review the attachment, you will see that the BOS met publicly an average of just over three hours per week over the first 24 weeks of 2017. That tells me that they could get their work done in one meeting per week the majority of the time. Now, I am not advocating for less meetings because I want the BOS to work less, but preparing, holding, and reporting on three meetings per week takes up more staff time per week than meeting once per week. And it would likely reduce the length of the meeting minutes published in the newspapers.

As for the individual BOS members attendance records, they range from a low of 76% attendance to a high of 89% attendance for the first 24 weeks of 2017. Seems like their attendance could be higher if the members cooperated with each other and scheduled their official meetings around vacations and other county business. The BOS’s three meetings per week ritual seems to be carved in stone … except when it’s not. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

BOS Attendance week ending 6-16-2017.xlsx

Board attendance records and meetings

April 14, 2017

About once a quarter, one or more members of the public request the Supervisors’ attendance records for their public Board meetings. As the Clerk to the Board of Supervisors, it is easy for my team to provide the records because we attend every Board meeting, publish the meeting minutes for every meeting, and video record every meeting. No one seems to get too excited about Board attendance and I am not trying to stir anything up with this post.

I am trying to be transparent and educate the public on the number of meetings and time spent at the Board meetings. And I wonder: Does the Board really need to meet three times per week? Would meeting attendance by the public increase if the informal session or formal session was held at 4pm or later in the day? Would the attendance of the Supervisors improve if they held less standing meetings? Could one of the Board’s direct reports takeover the Department Head meetings and provide regular updates to the Board?

A reduction in the number of Board meetings would likely lead to a reduction in the personnel costs associated with supporting those meetings, would likely result in a reduction in the cost of publishing the Board’s meeting minutes in the four local, official newspapers, would likely increase the percentage of meetings attended by the Board, and may even increase the public’s attendance at the meetings. The Board has been having three a week meetings for maybe decades. Is there a better way to govern? -Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor – Educator

BOS Attendance.xlsx

Marion City Council to hold office hours at library on Saturdays

February 11, 2016

Marion City Council members will be holding regular office hours beginning this month. Every Saturday a council member will be available for questions and conversation between 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the lobby of the Marion Public Library, 1095 Sixth Ave.

“Communication and community outreach are important,” Mayor Nicolas AbouAssaly stated in a press release. “We want to meet people where they are and invite residents to share ideas and ask questions of their elected officials.”

Source:  Corridor Business Journal’s Biz Daily 2/10/2016


Auditor holding office hours at city halls and schools

December 8, 2015

Over the past few years, I have utilized Listening Posts to meet with residents and hear first-hand their comments about my office, other County offices, and government. Earlier this Fall, Deputy Auditor Tim Box or I attended one school board meeting for each of the County’s K-12 school districts to offer information about the upcoming school elections. From time to time, I have also attended city council meetings.  I decided to try something new for 2016.

Starting yesterday (12/7/2015), I arrived at Robins City Hall 30 minutes prior to the council meeting. Supervisor John Harris joined me. I talked with various city officials and residents prior to the meeting and commented during the public comment period about the annual valuation report deadline.

My purpose: To take the Office of Linn County Auditor to where the public gathers versus always expecting the public to call or come to my office in the Public Service Center.

Tonight (12/8/2015), I am going to holding Office Hours (OH) at the Center Point (5:30pm) and Prairieburg (6:45pm) city halls. From time to time, I will also hold OHs prior to the public meetings of school boards and other governing bodies. If appropriate, I will provide an update during the public comment period of the meeting. My schedule will be posted on this blog.

My goal is to hold OHs at each of the County’s 17 cities and 12 school districts in 2016. Several cities and schools hold meetings around the same time on the same night of the month so I will need a couple of months to make one rotation through all of the cities and schools in 2016.

I extended an invitation to the Linn County Board of Supervisors (or any other Linn County elected official) to join me during my OHs.

You can always schedule an appointment with me by calling 319-892-5300 or by sending a request to – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Why report on Board attendance?

August 13, 2013

One of the first catch phrases you hear when you serve in the military is “inspect what you expect”.  Do you expect each member of the Board of Supervisors to attend each meeting they schedule?  If not, how many should they attend?

How do you know how many they attended?  Should you keep a stack of newspapers in storage, inspect the Board minutes, and tally up how many meetings they attended?  Or should the Auditor in his role as Clerk to the Board keep a tally and publish it?

Sometimes I wonder, “Gee, how many meetings has that Supervisor missed?” or, “Gosh, has he missed a meeting this year?”

I don’t like guessing.  I like facts.  You shouldn’t have to go through your newspapers and figure it out.  My office has the data and it doesn’t take much time to compile the facts.

And then you can see for yourself and draw your own conclusions … just like I do.

Do you think tracking the Board’s meeting attendance is a true indicator of their performance?  If not, what would you use?

The Board is a legislative body that makes executive decisions when they meet.  They do not manage County operations on a day-to-day basis.

As one Supervisor recently said, “County government matters!”  Does it matter if Board members attend Board meetings?  And if they always vote the same, do they need to attend every meeting?


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