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Former Douglas County commissioner questions per diems given to board members

Jim Stratton, who is re-running for election against Tim Kalina, thinks it is too much. Kalina prevailed over Stratton in the election four years ago.

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DOUGLAS COUNTY — Former Douglas County commissioner, Jim Stratton, who is running again for a seat on the board, shared a concern about per diems with current commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Per diems are paid out for pre-approved committee meetings that commissioners attend. They can also receive extra per diems for other meetings that were not pre-approved at the start of the year.

Jim Stratton
Jim Stratton
Echo Press file photo

Stratton was concerned that per diems were getting paid out on a more regular basis for meetings other than committee meetings. And he felt it wasn’t right.

Commissioner Heather Larson said to Stratton, “You were on the board when per diems were approved,” and he agreed, saying that he was. She then asked him if he ever got extra per diems other than what was originally approved and he told he didn’t and that she could check. Larson said she would.

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Heather Larson

At the meeting, Stratton said he never turned in an extra per diem for a meeting that was extra because being a commissioner was his job and he was already getting a monthly salary.

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However, after the meeting, Stratton contacted the newspaper via email and said, “I was asked, ‘Did I have some extras when I was a commissioner?’ I probably did.”

In the email, Stratton clarified his comments at the meeting, saying he meant that extra per diems used to be an exception but seem to be more of the norm now and, “I am concerned, not as a candidate, but as a taxpayer.”

Douglas County Board Chairperson, Tim Kalina, who is the incumbent Stratton filed against, said that he would give up the extras if that is what Stratton wanted. He also stated that the commissioners attend many more meetings or other functions that they do not get paid for.

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Tim Kalina

Stratton told him he was missing the “big picture” and that the commissioners get a salary each month of about $2,550.

Currently, commissioners receive a yearly salary of $29,800. Starting in 2023, they will receive $31,000, a 4% increase. Their per diems for 2023 will remain the same at $100, which is the same amount they have been receiving for the past five years.

Commissioner Keith Englund said to Stratton, “Are you doing this because you’re running for election? Quit it.”

Larson noted that the three minutes allotted for public comment had passed and the discussion ended.

Kalina said, “Thank you for your concern, Jim.”

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Larson then made a motion to accept all per diems as they were presented and they were all unanimously approved.

Total per diems for the month of October for each commissioner are as follows:

  • Englund – 11 ($1,100)
  • Kalina – 11 ($1,100)
  • Larson – nine ($900)
  • Meyer – 11 ($1,100)
  • Jerry Rapp – six ($600)

These amounts included five extra per diems for the commissioners – one for Larson, one for Kalina and three for Commissioner Charlie Meyer.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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