Tensions among leaders in local government heightened after a Bartholomew County councilwoman laid much of the blame for loss of the county’s entire information technology department on the county commissioners’ doorstep.
“I do not have confidence in the commissioners to solve our IT issues,” Laura DeDomenic said in a prepared statement read during Tuesday’s council meeting, when a budget item on information technology was considered.
DeDomenic called on the three county commissioners to issue requests from multiple vendors to provide IT support, as well as use individuals with technical knowledge to evaluate and recommend the best solution for the county’s IT problems.
However, the council voted 6-1, with DeDomenic casting the only vote in opposition, to approve $50,000 for a 60-day contract with Sharp Business Systems to provide IT support.
In her statement, the first-term council member denied that a lack of competitive salaries was the main reason why eight IT employees resigned during the past 14 months, with the last employee leaving at the end of last week.
Instead, DeDomenic said former IT specialists have told her they were put in a terrible situation with no support from the commissioners.
“They felt they were not respected, appreciated, their input and opinions were ignored, they were expected to do more with less and there were some bad hires that made the situation worse,” she said.
Regarding salaries, DeDomenic said the county council approved the IT budget as presented by the commissioners, which did not include substantial raises for any employees except the director.
Without singling out any of the commissioners by name, the councilwoman criticized them for speaking negatively about former IT staffers.
Commissioners chairman Rick Flohr, during a recent interview with an Indianapolis television station, blamed the high turnover on the IT employees themselves, describing them as “a bunch of immature, entitled, cry-baby, young people.”
In her statement, DeDomenic said all current and former employees should be treated with respect, adding personnel issues should not be aired publicly in the media.
“This is embarrassing to us as a county and is a slap in the face for every hard-working employee in the county,” DeDomenic said.
Although DeDomenic said her primary concerns were “public safety, the upcoming election, the security of our data and the productivity of our 400 workers,” she posted her entire written statement on her social media page after the meeting concluded.
“Good job, Laura,” county treasurer Pia O’Connor wrote on the councilwoman’s Facebook page. “This needed to be said.”
Fellow council member Jorge Morales said he also supported DeDomenic’s statement.
However, councilman Mark Gorbett said both the council and commissioners need to keep their focus on solving IT staffing problems rather than assigning blame.
“I don’t know what she hopes to accomplish with this,” commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said Wednesday.
Kleinhenz said the commissioners have overseen the IT department for more than 25 years without major issues or significant problems.
“We were there for the shaping of this department, and nothing has changed except the personnel,” Kleinhenz said. “The current difficulties are employee-related. There were not enough employees, so they all left.”
Due to a lack of staff, the most recent IT specialists were on call at all times before they finally quit, Kleinhenz said.
Tuesday was not the first time DeDomenic has publicly taken an adversarial stance against the commissioners.
On Aug. 31, she spearheaded an effort to take $700,000 in income tax revenue from control of the commissioners. Although it was later determined the council will not have such authority until 2018, the commissioners still agreed to provide the money to prevent a general fund deficit.
Last month, DeDomenic also advocated further cuts in funding available to the commissioners in order to pressure them into enacting a new cumulative capital development tax.
Due to a recent regulatory change, the commissioners’ refusal to enact the tax is now costing the county $680,000, she said last month. However, the council has also stood firm against raising taxes to address revenue shortfalls in county government the past few years.
Kleinhenz accused DeDomenic and O’Connor of “feeding feelings of animosity and hatred.”
The Bartholomew County Council is scheduled to vote on the final adoption of the 2017 general fund budget next month.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 13 in the fourth floor council chambers at the Bartholomew County Governmental Office building, located at the corner of Third and Franklin streets.
With little discussion and a 6-1 vote, the council gave its initial first-reading approval of the $20.75 million spending plan Tuesday. Jorge Morales cast the sole negative vote.
Although that’s up from the $17.19 general fund budget approved a year ago during a fiscal crisis, the amount is less than the $21.71 million general fund budget approved for 2013.