Allen County's three commissioners will have to document their hours worked under a proposal approved Friday — a change apparently directed at least in part at Commissioner Linda Bloom, whose lack of attendance has been criticized by fellow county officials for several years.
"This is not just about Linda. We want to set an example for others to follow," said Commissioner Nelson Peters, who wrote the policy that now requires the commissioners to record time worked, vacations, personal and sick time, along with a general description of the work performed. The Allen County Auditor will monitor compliance and report any problems in one of the commissioners' weekly public meetings. Commissioners' work records would also be public documents.
As elected officials the commissioners are not subject to the county's employee guidelines, but Peters and Commissioner Therese Brown said the change will improve transparency and public confidence in the office, which comprises the executive and legislative branches of county government.
"It's time we do this," Brown said. Passage would require support of two of the three commissioners, who each earn about $71,000 per year.
All three commissioners voted in favor of the policy Friday. Although it applies only to the commissioners, Peters said he hopes it will serve as a template for other elected officials to follow. Auditor Nick Jordan hopes they will. "You have to work 30 hours to get insurance," he said.
Bloom's work habits have long been questioned by other county officials. In 2008, after County Council cut the commissioners' pay in half after one member labeled the office "dysfunctional," a letter sent by an anonymous department head suggested criticized council because "instead of nailing one commissioner who is useless, who is basically a ghost employee . . .you take the other commissioners down with her." Bloom was the sole female commissioner at the time.
Council quickly restored the commissioners' salaries, but only after Councilman Cal Miller asked the commissioners whether they would work full-time in return for full-time pay. All three promised to do so.
But two years later, when late County Councilman Roy Buskirk unsuccessfully challenged Bloom in the Republic primary, he said: "I'll work full-time. There are many functions she doesn't show up to. It's embarrassing." And in 2014, after voters rejected a proposal to replace the commissioners with a single county executive, Peters said a supported a plan to make officials more accountable because "We don't traditionally get three commissioners (at meetings). When you get that level of disengagement . . . we need to be leaders."
Bloom was unavailable for comment and did not address the change at Friday's meeting, but has has long rejected claims she does not do her job, saying she doesn't need to attend meetings or go to the office to serve the public.
A commissioner since 1995, Bloom underwent leg surgery in early 2016 and still uses a walker. So far this year she has attended 15 of the commissioners' 21 board meetings but was appointed to few other duties by Brown and Peters because "we wanted to make sure board assignments were covered," Peters said.