Crow Wing County per diem, expenses add to commissioners' salaries
In 2012, Crow Wing County commissioners received $23,140 in per diem payment and travel reimbursement in addition to their base pay.
Commissioners receive a base salary of $28,051 and may claim a $50 per diem, or pay, for meeting attendance, along with travel expenses.
Last year, additional pay to county board members was:
• Commissioner Paul Thiede, District 2: per diem, $5,250; travel expenses, $4,373; total of $9,623.
• Commissioner Rosemary Franzen, District 4: per diem, $4,600; travel expenses, $1,480; total of $6,080.
• Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom, District 3: per diem, 4,150; travel expenses, $1,496; total of $5,646.
• Commissioner Phil Trusty, District 1: per diem, $500; travel expenses, $0; total of $500.
• Commissioner Doug Houge, who was chairman in 2012, per diem, $0; travel expenses, $1,292.
Houge regularly declines to submit per diem and travel expenses payment saying the board salary covers the job in his view. Last year, his travel expenses came during his year as chairman when he traveled to the Transportation Alliance annual Washington Fly-In in the nation’s capital. Houge said he paid his own meals and put in for airfare and hotel room reimbursement.
■ In 2011, Crow Wing County commissioners received a total of $26,033 in per diems and travel expenses. Thiede: per diem, $5,250; travel expenses, $6,855; total, $12,105. Franzen: per diem, $4,750; travel expenses, $2,188; total, $6,938. Nystrom: per diem, $3,900; travel expense, $2,089; total, $5,989. Trusty: per diem, $1,000; travel expenses, $0; total, $1,000. Houge did not claim per diem or expenses.
In 2011, Thiede said two contributing factors for his higher amount that year included his year as board chairman and his campaign for second vice president with the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC). As chairman, Thiede traveled to the Transportation Alliance annual Washington Fly-In. Thiede has also pointed out he has the farthest to travel to Crow Wing County Board meetings in Brainerd from his home by Pequot Lakes.
In his AMC campaign, Thiede said he traveled to 10 different district meetings from Caledonia to Hibbing. Thiede was ultimately not elected to the post.
In the spring of 2011, the county board stated it would support Thiede’s AMC campaign with letters as commissioners agreed it would be in the county’s interest to have someone advocating for rural counties in the association. Thiede said rural counties were under-represented. At the time, Thiede asked about mileage reimbursement and was told expenses could be submitted and the board would consider them individually.
■ In 2010, the commissioners received a total of $22,968 in per diem and expenses reimbursement with: $7,931 for Thiede; $7,540 for Franzen; $4,912 for Nystrom; $2,584 for Trusty; and zero for Houge.
■ In 2009, total per diem and expenses by commissioners came to $23,877 with: $9,875 for Thiede; $7,440 for Franzen; $5,383 for Nystrom; $1,178 for Trusty; and zero for Houge.
In 2010, the state auditor’s office received complaints about the county’s per diem payments and the state auditor suggested the county consider changes to its policy for board members. Now, commissioners provide at least a verbal report to the board after attending various meetings.