SHELL LAKE -- District 1 Supervisor Karen Baker will be tendering her resignation this week after she was forced to decide between keeping her County Board position or her Deputy Coroner position after a change was implemented in how she is paid from the County brought up the question of legality in maintaining both roles.
Baker was appointed to the Washburn County Board after Michael Bobin tendered his resignation on December 23, 2016. Bobin had served on the County Board from April 2000 until his resignation in 2016 with the exception of a 2-year term from 2012-2013 when James Pearson served District 1.
Washburn County Board Chair Tom Mackie stated to DrydenWire.com that he appointed Baker after Bobin’s resignation after confirming with Washburn County Corporate Counsel that he was able to do so.
Up until now, the Deputy Coroner position was paid via Washburn County Accounts Payable which essentially means that when she was working in the capacity of Deputy Coroner she was paid by the County as a contractor. When looking at the budget, the County decided it was in their best interest to move that position to the Washburn County payroll. In doing so, the question was presented if Baker was going to be able to remain on the Board now that she was officially on the County payroll.
The County contacted their legal counsel - Weld Riley - and were informed that regardless of how the position of Deputy Coroner was paid, it was a conflict of interest vis-a-vis Incompatibility of Offices and should not have been appointed to the Board in the first place.
Baker was notified of this information via email around the 20th of December.
Baker provided the following written statement to DrydenWire.com:
"I am very disappointed that I will not be able to remain on the County Board starting in the new year. I was originally under the impression that this was due to the Deputy Coroners position being moved from Accounts Payable to the Washburn County payroll, thus causing a conflict of interest. However, through the investigation of DrydenWire.com, I now realize that this has nothing to do with it and the approval of my appointment to the Board should never have happened as we now know that this was a conflict of interest regardless of how I was paid.
"I do not blame anyone for this oversight and have truly enjoyed my time representing the great citizens of District 1 and the rest Washburn County.
"I have chosen to continue as Washburn County Deputy Coroner and therefore will be tendering my resignation this week as your County Board Supervisor for District 1. I truly feel that I have represented my District well and want to thank everyone for their support."
Elections for District 1 Supervisor will be held in April of 2018, however, the Board Chair could select an interim Supervisor for District 1, similar to what was done when Bobin resigned, however, in a phone conversation with DrydenWire.com, Washburn County Board Chair Tom Mackie said that he is not looking to appoint anyone to fill this position and will let the election decide who will be the next District 1 Supervisor for Washburn County.
Karen Baker has served in her capacity as the Deputy Coroner for the last 4 years and was the Washburn County Coroner for 18 years before that.
Mike Bobin confirmed to DrydenWire.com that he plans to run for this seat that he once held in the Spring Election and will be doing so as a write-in.