I worked for Cass County until recently and fully support Jennifer Aldinger and her complaint about the management. There is an Orwellian culture at Cass County that quashes disagreement, new ideas, and anything that could potentially bring discredit on the county government. Kind of a “if you don’t say anything, then nothing happened” mentality. Even the commission room perpetuates an adversarial atmosphere with the commission sitting on a raised platform, backlit, and looking down on the speaker.

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I sat in on many management meetings where discussions between managers over proposals that would be beneficial to employees, such as telework, focused on potential employee misbehavior. A strategic planning session was conducted with department heads, commissioners and several employees this spring. Major issues of concern for the employees were departments that were understaffed, increased workloads, and disparities in salary when compared to other governmental entities and the private sector. Yet, the final approved strategic plan failed to touch on these.

I resigned for the same reasons Aldinger did. County management does not allow you to speak up for your staff nor yourself. If you do, you are labeled as “defensive.” Employees are presumed guilty when an outside complaint is made, many times anonymously. Department heads are not really seen as office leaders. The commission does not trust input nor recommendations, usually second-guessing or deciding contrary to the department head’s recommendations. I saw the commission discuss $2,000/year in salary difference for over 45 minutes. Many meetings with the commission had an air of confrontation. My budget hearing in July is a great example of this.

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The reputation of Cass County Veterans Services office has been tarnished by baseless accusations from a fellow veteran and service officer who should have been a partner in finding the truth behind these complaints. I wanted to investigate every complaint and make it right, never said I wouldn’t, but was judged by management and found guilty before I could even defend the office or my actions. Instead, the trust of the veterans, staff and likely other county veteran service offices in the state has been damaged. Aldinger's situation, as well as the Veterans Services office, might have been avoided if county management had supported their employees, instead of condemning, and taken their concerns seriously.