Meeting for the final time with an outgoing member, the Leavenworth County Commission took up an issue Monday involving the County Treasurer’s Office.

Meeting for the final time with an outgoing member, the Leavenworth County Commission took up an issue Monday involving the County Treasurer’s Office.

The issue concerned whether Treasurer Janice Van Parys can grant administrative leave for her employees.

This was the latest in a series of issues that has led to ongoing tensions between the treasurer and commission.

The issue was taken up Monday with Dennis Bixby serving on the commission.

Bixby lost last year in a primary to Doug Smith. Smith went on to win the general election for the commission’s 3rd District seat, which includes the cities of Basehor and Tonganoxie.

Bixby and the other two commissioners met as the old commission. The new commission later met after Smith took the oath of office.

Van Parys told members of the old commission that a payroll issue had been resolved temporarily. She requested that the matter be tabled, so the issue could be taken up by the new commission.

However, Human Resources Director Tamara Copeland said the issue needed to be taken up because it had to be resolved before the end of the day.

Van Parys then asked that her attorney, David Hoffman, to speak on her behalf.

Hoffman said the issue arose because the Treasurer’s Office had to close out financial books Dec. 30.

Once this year-end task was completed, employees could not do any more work. Van Parys sent her employees home early that day.

“She instructed her employees to put down administrative leave for the rest of the afternoon,” Hoffman said.

He said Copeland later instructed Treasurer’s Office employees to either mark their time off as vacation time or time off without pay.

The treasurer is an elected position.

Hoffman argued that elected officials have control of their budgets once they have been approved by the commission.

He said this is especially true of what is known as the motor vehicle fund. This fund has money the Treasurer’s Office receives for the registration of vehicles.

Hoffman said the motor vehicle fund pays the salaries of all but about two employees who left early Dec. 30.

The attorney argued that denial of the administrative leave is a backdoor attempt for the commission to assert control over the motor vehicle fund.

“That’s what this ends up being,” he said.

Hoffman said the employees in the Treasurer’s Office are being made pawns in a power struggle. He urged commissioners to override Copeland’s decision or simply correct the employees’ time cards.

County Counselor Mollie Hill said there are numerous legal opinions that require elected officials to follow rules and regulations that are applicable to all county employees.

Hoffman disputed this opinion.

“We’ll have to respectfully disagree,” he said.

Financial Administrator Mark Loughry said the issue involves policy.

He said commissioners could amend the policy and allow department directors to grant administrative leave for their employees. He said commissioners also could grant a one-time request for the administrative leave without changing the policy.

Copeland said the issue involved four employees, not two, who are being paid through county funds other than the motor vehicle fund.

Copeland also argued the treasurer could have conducted training or had staff meetings instead of sending her employees home early.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber made a motion to approve administrative leave for the Treasurer’s Office employees.

Bixby provided a second but said he would like a letter to be placed in a file to indicate that the treasurer was being given a warning and one-time exception.

Graeber said he would not join in issuing a warning. He said the treasurer has been duly elected.

Bixby withdrew his second to Graeber’s motion.

Commissioner Bob Holland, who was serving as chairman, said the motion died because of a lack of second.

Holland then made a motion to not approve the administrative leave.

“I think we need to stick with county policy,” he said.

The motion was approved 2-1 with Graeber voting against it.

However, this vote was reversed after the new commission convened.

Smith, who is the new chairman, made the motion to approve the administrative leave for the Treasurer’s Office employees.

This motion was approved 2-1 with Holland voting against it.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR