Questions raised concerning jail administrator's health
Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner said Friday that questions over the health of jail administrator Walt Willis need answers. Willis recently began a 60-day leave of absence for health reasons, leaving Sheriff Don Rudnick to do the day-to-day ...
Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner said Friday that questions over the health of jail administrator Walt Willis need answers.
Willis recently began a 60-day leave of absence for health reasons, leaving Sheriff Don Rudnick to do the day-to-day running of the new facility.
"It is a concern," Wagner said. "We owe it to the facility, we owe it to the staff" to make sure the county has somebody whose primary job is to run the jail.
Consultants Jim Rowen-horst and Gary Bowker, who completed a three-day review of jail operations Friday, told county officials that leadership at the jail is a problem.
"I really think there needs to be an administrative person in place immediately," Bowker said.
"We do think there's a void there that probably has to be, on a temporary basis, plugged somehow," Rowenhorst said.
Wagner said the jail administrator's job is one of the most stressful in the county and his concern is as much for Willis' health as it is for jail operations.
Wagner said Willis' health has been a concern since the process of building the jail began. In fact, he missed 17 of the 48 meetings of the jail transition team that oversaw the project.
And around the time the jail opened last month, he was gone for about 10 days due to illness.
Rudnick must determine if Willis can continue in the job, Wagner said. "We need some assurance of a permanent fix from the sheriff."
Rudnick said Willis, who is diabetic, missed transition team meetings because they always were held at 11 a.m. Tuesdays and that conflicted with the only time he could see his diabetes doctor.
"We could've changed the day of the meetings, but nobody wanted to do that," Rudnick said.
If Willis' current absence puts pressure on anybody, it's him, Rudnick said, since he's running the jail.
He said he didn't know if Willis planned on returning to work after his current medical leave ends but he can't discuss it with him until then.
"I don't have a problem with Walt, per se," Rudnick said. "The board does, for some reason."
Willis could not be reached for comment Friday.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541