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Auditor banned from personnel discussions

Harrison County Auditor Pat Wolfe will not be allowed to attend closed sessions of the county board of commissioners when personnel issues are discussed, said board chair J.R. Eckart Monday night.
But Wolfe said it is her duty as auditor to attend such meetings to attest that no improper discussion or action occurs during the meeting.
Eckart said he decided such action was necessary because he believes Wolfe had breached the confidentiality required in a previous closed session regarding a personnel issue.
Wolfe emphatically denies that claim. She said many rumors about some county employees attending a day-long outing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were circulating among county employees prior to the closed session on June 9.
‘The information was already out; I didn’t release it. I was out of town at the (county) auditors’ spring conference in Indianapolis until May 28 at 5 p.m.
‘When I returned to work on June 1, I e-mailed the commissioners about the rumors. I don’t understand where he gets that I’ve breached confidentiality.’
Eckart said Monday night he will ask the county attorney, Christopher Byrd, to attend the closed sessions when personnel issues are discussed.
Whether Wolfe will be allowed to cover meetings that aren’t personnel related hasn’t been decided, Eckart said.
The auditor’s attendance at closed sessions has not been discussed during an open session of the board.
‘It hasn’t come up in a closed session, either,’ said Byrd.
Eckart’s statement regarding Wolfe was made to her personally on Monday night, and it has not been discussed or acted on officially.
Regarding the Speedway outing and pay/vacation questions, a policy will be added to the handbook for Harrison County employees regarding time spent at outings sponsored by companies doing business with the county.
The commissioners didn’t say what the policy would be, only that one would be added to the handbook.
The intended action was read from a prepared statement by the county attorney at the close of last Tuesday’s regular meeting (the commissioners met then instead of Monday because Monday was the designated Fourth of July holiday).
At issue is whether a county employee can attend such outings, which some consider work related, with the permission of department heads without using personal leave or vacation days.
The auditor maintains vacation days or personal time should be used.
An employee in her department also attended the ‘Client Appreciation Day’ at the Speedway but charged it as a vacation day. She said that is how she knew the others attended.
The issue will be addressed with Harrison County Engineer Darin Duncan, the department head who recently attended the outing along with two staff members, in a private session, Eckart said.
Wolfe recently brought the three payroll claims to the attention of the commissioners, who said at the time the outing was attended with the commissioners’ blessings and charging it as a work day was not improper.
At a closed commissioners’ session Wednesday evening, July 7, the auditor said she was asked to leave.
She questioned state auditors about that incident.
‘In my opinion, you should not have been asked to leave,’ said Bruce Hartman, a certified public accountant with the Indiana State Board of Accounts in Indianapolis.
He told Wolfe in a response to an e-mail that state law required the county auditor to be the clerk of the commissioners, ‘and therefore you should have stayed. I would not attest to anything since you were not there.’
Wolfe said she regrets the misunderstanding but will continue to perform the duties of her office, as she understands them.

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