Dunn County Commissioner takes leave of absence, vacancy options considered
Commission Chairman Larry Lundberg said he needs two months and possibly longer away from the job to care for his sick wife.
MANNING, N.D. — The Dunn County Commission held a special meeting Thursday to discuss the employment status of Commission Chairman Larry Lundberg, who had submitted his resignation prior to the meeting. He spoke to his fellow commissioners by phone and explained he needs time away from the job to care for his wife who is dealing with serious medical issues.
“I just strongly feel that I cannot be an effective Commissioner with her health issues. And I simply need to be there to help my wife… I'm a little concerned about my health insurance,” Lundberg said. “With the permission of the commission, I would delay my resignation for two months and it would be paid leave of absence.”
He added that these complications may entail driving to Bismarck three times per week.
Commissioner Tracey Dolezal pointed out this situation will create a deadlock issue.
“When we're voting on a motion or something to bring forward we're an even number so two to two on everything would be failing,” Dolezal said. “I certainly respect Commissioner Lundberg’s position and why he's gone. But it's just something to think about, that we basically have a four member board now and not five, as laid out in century code to honor what the taxpayers and citizens in the county expect.”
Commissioner Robert Kleeman asked if Lundberg could be contacted over the phone to be a tie breaker on split votes, but Lundberg responded that he would not be comfortable voting on matters with which he is not fully engaged.
“I'm not going to call in on issues I haven't been involved with and voted on and that would be irresponsible on my behalf,” Lundberg said. “Partially be there. I don't know how that would work. I'm not, I'm not that kind of person. I’m going to give 110% or not at all.”
He added that he would be willing to resign if that made things easier for the commission, but said he would need a few more weeks to figure out solutions for health insurance.
“I'm not really going to be of any use to the people of Dunn County… I just want you to understand that I feel a little guilty about getting paid for not doing anything,” Lundberg said.
Vice Chairman Cody Buehner asked if he could recuse himself from certain votes in order to avoid deadlock, but was informed it is illegal for him to abstain from a vote in which there is no conflict of interest. Commissioner Craig Pelton said Lundberg's portfolio assignments included the Roosevelt Custer Regional Council, Dunn Co. Roads Dept, county fair board, area food pantry and the Dunn County NDSU Extension.
Sheriff Gary Kuhn suggested the commission could appoint someone to temporarily fill the spot as an interim. Assistant State’s Attorney Ross Sundeen said he’ll look into the legality of appointing an interim to fill a medical leave of absence. Sundeen advised the commission to take more time to consider their options and said state law allows Lundberg to be on medical leave for up to six months.
“Optimistically, things could change in 30 or 60 days,” Sundeen said. “I just think that these decisions are better based, not on emotion, but rather looking at things as a whole. And I think, as an elected officer, he should have the benefit of seeing how things play out. He might know his decision a lot sooner than later. So I don't think there's anything wrong with giving him the benefit of the doubt… From a legal perspective or from a board perspective, as far as the vacancy, we'll look into that and we'll find a solution.”
In a 4-0 vote, the commission passed a motion to rescind Lundberg’s resignation. The matter will be a topic of further discussion at the next regular commission meeting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5.
Dunn County Commissioners receive healthcare benefits for themselves and eligible family members. Their salaries are $938 per month, or $24,404 annually.
After the meeting, Dolezal confirmed that had Lundberg resigned, he would have been eligible to receive a continuation of coverage through COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act) which, under certain circumstances, entitles workers and their families to health insurance at a higher cost for a limited time when their employment is reduced or discontinued.