Bellwether, Wilhour respond to letter

The two parties that County Coroner Bruce Bowen mentioned in his letter of resignation last week responded in writing to comments made by Bowen.
In his resignation letter to county board Chairman Jeff Beckman, Bowen expressed his displeasure with the county’s new budget preparation process, saying that he was excluded from the process.
“All the other department heads were scheduled for a budget meeting and allowed input on their budget; I was not,” he said.
“I didn’t realize my budget was prepared by an outside source until it was on public display. I only received a copy after asking for it,” Bowen said.
“I consider this maneuver disrespectful to me,” Bowen states in his letter of resignation.
Cathryn Hart of Bellwether, the firm that the county hired earlier this year for administrative services, responded in writing to Bowen’s comments.
Hart said, “Our preference is always to have the elected official or appointed department head weigh in on the next year’s budget.
“In the specific case of the coroner’s office, we did make several attempts at contact. Failing that, we used the 2017 projected amounts, the prior year’s actual increase (in) rates and the basic knowledge that lab fees for investigators is increasing at most facilities to create a 2018 budget request that is 9 percent over (the) prior year,” Hart said.
“This was discussed as part of the finance committee budget meetings.
“When an appointment (of coroner) is made, we can work with the coroner to make adjustments to the 2018 budget as part of the budget amendment process,” Hart said in her written statement.
In that document, Hart shows that the 2017 budget figure was $85,073, the projected 2017 spending was $92,048.53 and the 2018 budget request is $92,675.
A day after Bowen mentioned in his letter of resignation a comment allegedly made by county board member Wade Wilhour, Wilhour released a written response.
In his letter, which he released on Tuesday, Bowen said, “Board member (Wade) Wilhour told me more than one time I ‘could easily be replaced,’” Bowen said. “So, I will move aside and let it happen.”
On Wednesday, Wilhour responded to Bowen’s comments in a written statement sent to local media.
“I’ll never deny that Bruce (Bowen) has been and excellent coroner,” Wilhour said.”He will be missed, and I would like to thank him for his 17 years of service.
“I felt I needed to defend myself in the statements made regarding me,” Wilhour said.
“Our words matter and so does context, so that is why it’s important to have the full story.
“Seeing that he specifically mentions my name, I felt it was important to put the statement into context.
“It was actually a meeting that I will never forget. Last year, before Mr. Bowen’s re-election, there was a meeting at the courthouse. The purpose of this meeting was to slate Republican candidates for the ballot for the upcoming election,” Wilhour said.
“At the time, Bruce had announced that he wasn’t going to seek re-election. Jeff Beckman and I were on our way up to the courtroom (which is where the meeting was going to be held) when we were pulled aside.
“The short version of the meeting is as follows: Mr. Bowen wanted more money if he was going to be put on the ballot as the Republican candidate,” Wilhour said in his written statement.
“Mr. Beckman nor myself had the authority to guarantee Mr. Bowen an increase in salary. It was not the time or the place to discuss such a matter, in my opinion.
“As for the statement Mr. Bowen made in saying I told him he was replaceable. I said it then and I will still say it today. I told him in that very meeting that he, in fact, was replaceable, and in the same sentence, I said that I was also replaceable.
“I also said that all leaders should look at themselves as being replaceable. If we believe we are irreplaceable, we have failed at being good leaders.”

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