SHELL LAKE, WI – The investigation by Weld Riley & Prenn into Washburn County Finance Director Jane Dvorak has concluded, according to Washburn County Board Chair, Tom Mackie. A meeting of the County's three power committees as well as counsel from Weld, Riley & Prenn will be meeting in a closed session to determine the next step.
“I have been notified that the county's counsel of Weld Riley will be having a meeting this Thursday with the Executive, Finance, and Personnel Committees,” Mackie told DrydenWire during a phone conversation earlier this week. “All other Washburn County Board Supervisors are welcome to attend as well.”
***UPDATE*** The meeting will take place at 6 P.M. Tuesday, May 9, 2017, at the County Board Room, Elliot Building, Shell Lake WI. Click HERE to read the agenda.
In December of 2016, then County Board Supervisor Mike Bobin asked the Personnel Committee to meet with the Finance Committee and discuss in closed session certain concerns Washburn County Department heads and employees had about Ms. Dvorak and her professional relationships with them. Bobin, Chair of Personnel at the time, and Skip Fiedler as Chair of Finance decided to hold a joint meeting of the two committees. Within a week Mr. Mackie canceled that meeting.
Bobin stated to DrydenWire that it was his opinion at that time that Ms. Dvorak be put on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, considering that was also "what the Washburn County Employee Manual policy stated."
“Since the meeting was canceled with no good reason, I resigned,”, Bobin said. “Soon after, it was decided to hire outside investigators at great expense to the County taxpayers and 7 months later there has been no action, other than the outside investigators suggesting that Ms. Dvorak be put on administrative leave.”
On January 16, 2017, Washburn County Sheriff Terry Dryden sent an email to all Washburn County Board Members, Department Heads, and media. The email stated Sheriff Dryden's concerns about Ms. Dvorak's work practices, actions and behaviors, as well as saying that Ms. Dvorak had purported false information to the Finance Committee and to other county employees regarding the Washburn County Sheriff's Office expenditures. Sheriff Dryden also alleged that Ms. Dvorak had utilized confrontational and intimidating communication tactics when interacting with others. Shortly after this email, Ms. Dvorak was put on paid leave, and Weld, Riley & Prenn was to conduct an investigation. A second independent investigation by Washburn County's insurance company was also launched, but the details of that are unknown at this time.
In a closed session during a meeting on April 24, 2017, counsel from Weld, Riley & Prenn gave options to the Executive Committee, and a vote was reported to have taken place. When DrydenWire asked about the meeting, Mackie said: “We are letting the attorneys work it out.”
Mackie also stated that there was a vote in a Finance Committee closed session in April, but referred us to contact the chairperson of that committee, Skip Fiedler, for more information.
“Right now, I cannot comment other than to say that we are looking forward to hearing all sides of the investigation so we can find out all the facts before we make any decisions,” Fiedler stated.
Lolita Olson, current Washburn County County Clerk, Administrator and Human Resource Director, was also discussed in the Finance and Executive Committee meetings. A vote in at least one of those committees' closed sessions also took place about removing one or possibly two of Ms. Olson's positions – HR Director and/or County Administrator, but Mackie would not go into detail, other than to say that "that is between the Executive Committee and Lolita."
Ms. Olson is believed to be involved because some on the County Board thinks she is to blame as HR Director for how she handled the situation regarding Ms. Dvorak. However, most of our sources close to the situation tell us that it is more likely that a few powerful board members simply support Ms. Dvorak over Ms. Olson.
When we asked Mackie if Ms. Olson was aware of the discussion by either the Finance and Executive Committees regarding the possibility of removing one or two of her current roles for the County, Mackie said: “probably not, but a recommendation will be forthcoming and related to her soon.
“We are investigating to make sure that both Ms. Dvorak and Ms. Olson get a fair shot,” Mackie added. “We just don't want to trample on any person's rights”.
DrydenWire submitted open record requests on April 26, 2017, but have yet to receive any of the information requested.