County commissioner calls employee 'disrespectful' but board disagrees
An allegation against a Douglas County employee that he was disrespectful to the county board was dropped Tuesday after a hearing.
Douglas County Commissioner Owen Miller accused Douglas County Public Works Director Dave Robley of "disrespectful behavior toward your employer, the Douglas County Board."
In a letter sent to Robley on Sept. 28, Douglas County Board Chair Jim Stratton requested Robley to attend a closed meeting as part of the regular board meeting on Oct. 4 to discuss the allegations. Robley was notified that the meeting could be open to the public if he requested it, which Robley later did.
At the Tuesday, Oct. 4 meeting, Miller said he raised the allegations because of an exchange between Robley and the commissioners at a Sept. 20 meeting regarding a new centralized business office and the hiring of an office manager. Miller felt that Robley made excessive demands, was disrespectful and threatened the board when he said the changes may not go smoothly unless an officer manager was hired.
"Your attitude needs to change," Miller told Robley on Tuesday.
Miller asked that the allegations against Robley be placed in his personnel file.
Robley responded to the allegations saying he did not believe he was being disrespectful to the board and that was not his intention.
"I raised my hand. I always said, Mr. Chair (to Stratton). I was forthright, but I did not make demands," Robley told the board. "It was not my intention to be disrespectful. That is not my character. I don't believe I was disrespectful."
Commissioner Bev Bales agreed with Robley and said she has always felt Robley has treated the board with respect. Bales asked that the board review the videotape of the Sept. 20 meeting when the exchange took place. She checked with Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson to see if, by law, the video could be viewed at the meeting. Larson said yes and the tape was shown.
Although the sound quality wasn't the best, board members were able to view and listen to the recorded meeting. At one point, Robley told commissioners that the hiring of a officer manager for the Public Works Department would make the transition to a centralized business office a lot smoother. He asked them to approve the motion. The motion passed 4-1, Miller voted against it.
The board then discussed Robley's comments..
"Who here thinks he was disrespectful?" she asked. "This is a false statement. I don't think he was out of line."
Commissioner Jerry Johnson sided with Miller and felt that Robley was disrespectful.
"We heard it differently up here. We heard a threat," said Johnson. "That's what I heard."
Robley said he respectively disagreed with the allegations.
Attorney Larson told the board they should exercise caution with the allegations. He said the board needs to hear different levels of ideas and opinions and that not everyone is going to agree with the board 100 percent of the time.
"This didn't register on my radar as disrespect," said Larson. "I would not have recommended that action (bringing forth the allegations)."
Bales reiterated what Larson said, "We need to hear from our people. If we don't listen, then what kind of operation is this?"
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, who was at the Sept. 20 meeting, voiced his opinion to the board.
"I didn't view it as disrespect. It was a department head who disagreed but it wasn't a disrespectful exchange," said Wolbersen.
Stratton said, "I guess we can be sensitive to what we think we hear and how it's spoken."
A vote was taken on the motion to throw out the allegations and nothing be placed in Robley's file. It passed 3-2 with Stratton, Bales and Charlie Meyer voting yes and Miller and Johnson voting no.