Veto of Ordinance Amendment 37 (Airport Director Position)
August 13, 2002
Topf Wells, 266-9069
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today (8/13/02) vetoed an ordinance amendment which would establish the position of Airport Director as a civil service position instead of a contract manager. Falk vetoed the ordinance amendment “because the ordinance amendment is not needed, reduces accountability, and, in the long run, will cost taxpayers money” (quote from Falk’s veto message).
The full text of Falk’s veto message is below.
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August 13, 2002
TO: Dane County Board of Supervisors
FROM: Kathleen M. Falk
Dane County Executive
RE: Veto of Ordinance Amendment 37, 2001-02, Eliminating the Airport Director Position as Contract Department Head
Today (8/13/02), I vetoed Ordinance Amendment 37, 2001-02, which eliminates the Airport Director position as a contracted department head, because the ordinance amendment is not needed, reduces accountability, and, in the long run, will cost taxpayers money.
This ordinance amendment would be needed only if the Airport Director faces unique challenges or responsibilities which somehow call for that position to have civil service status instead of the contractual basis which all other non-elected, county executive supervised department heads have (or will have when the incumbent leaves that position). Such is not the case. While the Airport Director has an important, difficult, complex job, it is not more so than the jobs of many other department heads such as the 911 Director, Highway Director, Director of Administration, or the Human Services Director. The Human Services Director is responsible for almost 10 times the legally restricted revenue managed by the Airport Director. The Alliant Energy Center, one of our most important Enterprise Departments, has been successfully led by a contract department head for many years amid fiscal challenges.
County Board Supervisors have often noted the excellent and responsive services offered them by department heads working under contract. Contrary to a mistaken assertion made during the County Board’s debate on this ordinance amendment, the County Board must concur in the dismissal of a contracted department head (see Section 18.05 (4) of the County Ordinances).
Many who have supported this ordinance amendment have supported a higher salary for the Airport Director. The better way to achieve this end is through a contract. The alternative would involve creating a new pay range within the civil service system. Over time, as the compensation for different managers in the civil service system was analyzed for comparables, this new pay range would be a factor driving other management salaries up.
By having department heads serve under contract and reporting to the County Executive, there is clear accountability for performance. The County Executive is responsible for the performance of the department heads and, in the unlikely event of incompetence or malfeasance, can, with County Board concurrence, remove a department head expeditiously and directly. That is far more difficult and time-consuming to accomplish if the department heads have civil service protection.
We have had a strong recruitment for the new Airport Director. Once the Airport Commission, you, and I finish our work, we shall have an excellent new Airport Director. The best way to insure that he or she runs the Airport well, is compensated appropriately, and is properly responsive to the County’s policymakers is to base employment on a fair contract. That is the course the County Board charted when they originally considered these issues and it is a course we should stay with now.