County Supervisor Royceann Porter criticizes Jon Green’s work ethic

Johnson County’s five supervisors and their staff worked to juggle creating a new budget, allocating $29.3 million in federal pandemic relief funds, and regular business governance activities. a county of 152,000 people.

During a work session on Wednesday, that tension boiled over, with a pointed suggestion that one supervisor wasn’t working as hard as the others. It was a rare instance of one elected official publicly criticizing another and raising the question of what a supervisor’s work week should look like.

Supervisors were discussing how much to raise their own salaries. According to a recommendation from the county compensation board, all elected officials in Johnson County would receive a raise of up to 18%. Supervisors lowered this last week to a 2.25% increase for themselves and 4.42% for all other elected officials.

New supervisor Jon Green suggested the county could calculate supervisors’ raises based on their annual salary, not bi-weekly paychecks, as is currently the case. It was then that the supervisors’ stress briefly erupted into a heated exchange. Green and supervisor Rod Sullivan have attended meetings virtually since falling ill with a COVID-19 infection a month ago.

Jon Green arrives before his swearing-in ceremony for the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in June.  The former Lone Tree mayor says he was surprised when a colleague questioned his work ethic this week.

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Supervisors President Royceann Porter and Vice President Lisa Green-Douglass disputed Green’s suggestion, saying he was proposing a pay cut for supervisors because it would technically reduce the amount of the paycheck every two weeks. Green pointed out that their total salary in the next fiscal year would still be about $2,000 more than the year before, or $89,129.

The momentary confusion was due to the fact that the supervisors will receive an additional salary next year. Indeed, Johnson County is in a unique situation that only happens about once every ten years: there will be 27 pay periods instead of the usual 26.

“Why would we take a pay cut? Is that part of the image you want to project, that you’re sacrificial and you’re doing this for the goodness of your heart?” asked Green-Douglass. “Because we work and workers should be paid for their work, elected or not.”

Green-Douglass told the Press-Citizen on Thursday that she believed Green’s proposal to change the way the council was paid was actually a ploy to make himself look good and pretend to his constituents that he had made it so. Council to take a pay cut.

She said she disagreed with the proposal and thinks it wouldn’t be good to put supervisors on a different pay system than the rest of the county’s more than 500 employees.

‘Come to work, Jon’: President Royceann Porter calls out new supervisor

At the meeting, Green-Douglass focused his frustration on Green’s proposal, but the debate took a turn when Porter suggested that Green was not fulfilling his elected duties and told him, “Come to work, Jon. “

“Four of us come to work every day. We work,” Porter said. “Sometimes we don’t even see you in this office.”

Porter declined to respond to Press-Citizen’s attempts to clarify what she meant when she criticized Green. Green, Green-Douglass and Sullivan each responded.

Royceann Porter, chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, speaks during a formal meeting, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, at the Johnson County Administration Building in Iowa City, Iowa.

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In an interview with the Press-Citizen, Green said he didn’t want to speculate what Porter meant, but said he was fulfilling his supervisory duties. He said the subject of his work ethic was not brought up in private conversations or emails with the other supervisors.

“It’s been a tough time working on the budget and on ARPA,” he said. “I wasn’t shocked that the tenor of the conversation turned out the way it did. But I was surprised by the specific accusation.”

Green said he couldn’t speak for the others, but was tired and frustrated because the county basically runs two budgets. He argued that the American Rescue Plan Act, by nature, is even more complex because it is a new program with ever-changing rules.

Green won his seat in a special election last year. He is running for re-election this year, one of two seats on the November ballot.

‘Everyone is tired’: Green says tension is understandable during pandemic

While the debate becomes intense between the supervisors on certain topics like the mine-resistant ambush protection vehicle or the ARPA-funded direct assistance program, it does not often escalate into personal affronts.

Green said he thinks the five supervisors have their own priorities and pet peeves. Sometimes they work well together, but sometimes there is tension, he said.

“I don’t think the Johnson County Board of Supervisors is in a special position to everyone else, especially when you look at the stress and isolation of the pandemic (COVID-19),” he said. he declares. “It crushes everyone, and I always try to keep in mind that everyone is tired and everyone is in pain.”

Sullivan said he believed that since Green joined the board last year, he had fulfilled his duties. He said the availability and physical presence of a supervisor in the county building is an issue that dates back to his early days on the council.

“There have always been groups of supervisors who work over 9am to 5pm, or whatever, and check in every morning and sit in the office. But there are supervisors who don’t work not that way,” he said.

Sullivan said when the pandemic started, it made things even more complicated. He was president at the time and was in the office all day, but the others weren’t. Now he comes to the office but uses Zoom for meetings.

During his nearly 18 years as a supervisor, serving as president multiple times, Sullivan said he’s worked with many supervisors who take a different approach to work.

“Beyond (meetings and committees), I think people have different ideas about what the job entails,” he said. “There has always been a dispute about the appropriate time to spend in the office.”

Sullivan said the tension on the board isn’t new, but he thinks it’s important for supervisors to handle public affairs in a way where interpersonal conflict doesn’t get in the way of work.

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan listens to a question during a news conference about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at the Johnson County Emergency Operations Center in Iowa City, Iowa.

Why Johnson County Supervisors Are Considered 3/4 Time Workers

Johnson County supervisors are full-time employees, which is inconsistent across Iowa. Some supervisors, such as in Warren County south of Des Moines, work as part-time elected officials and earn less than half of what Johnson County does.

Green said Johnson County supervisors are, in theory, rated ¾ times because they are paid about 75% of what other county elected officials are. He said his understanding is that it dates back to an obscure law from the 1970s, when the board of supervisors determined that employees who work ¾ time or more are eligible for health insurance and then assessed themselves at ¾ time.

In addition to attending public meetings and voting, supervisors are responsible for the day-to-day running of all county departments not under the jurisdiction of other elected officials, such as public health, conservation, and the medical examiner. Supervisors are also assigned to committees listed on the county website.

Supervisors also spend time preparing for meetings by reading files that sometimes run into hundreds of pages and by educating voters and the media.

Green said he had different values ​​and experiences than other supervisors, and he thought that was valuable. Green is a former mayor of Lone Tree and lives farther from major city centers than his peers. He is one of three supervisors with a rural address, in addition to Pat Heiden and Green-Douglass.

Green said he doesn’t think every vote has to be unanimous and he doesn’t take it personally when he’s on the losing side.

“I believe all supervisors are here for the betterment of Johnson County and we are going to disagree on what that looks like,” he said. “We need all these different perspectives.”

George Shillcock is Press-Citizen’s local government and development reporter covering Iowa City and Johnson County. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @ShillcockGeorge

Maria D. Ervin