Saturday, February 16, 2008

Legislature should fix the law

Notwithstanding his arguable lack of altruism discussed below, County Board Chairman Terry Rose had a plausible point in suggesting that indicted County Executive Allan Kehl should step aisde, a recommendation he changed to urging Kehl's resignation after learning that state law only allows county executives to take a leave of absence in case of mental or physical disability.

The Kenosha News aptly questioned Kehl's ability to fully carry out his duties while defending himself against federal conspiracy charges, although the newspaper once again failed to do its homework when it didn't immediately research the legal quandry that prevents Kehl from stepping aside as it editorially urged. (The newspaper subsequently reported on this but it should have done its homework first before suggesting the impossible.)

What the newspaper didn't argue -- and should have -- is that the law which prohibits Kehl from taking a leave of absence under these circumstances needs to be changed -- pronto. (The legislature is still in session, folks.)

It makes no sense that, say, a deputy sheriff accused of serious misconduct can be suspended with pay pending resolution of the allegation but the county's chief executive can't (even if he's willing do so).

This obviously need fixing.


Anonymous said...

Actually the current state statute does absolutely make sense. There is a very good argument for the law as it is. The county executive isn't a hired hand like a deputy sheriff. He is an elected -- as in by the people -- official. Allowing a mechanism to suspend him disenfranchises the voters. The voters can recall him; in that case, they've re-exercised their will. He can resign; he's saying he is no longer up to the job. But a mechanism for a suspension is a dangerous option that could become a tool of bad intentions and a way to run around the voters' will.

auntie raman said...

Good comment above BUT a recall is too time consuming AND can't be done during the first year of the term. An imprudent suspension could be challenged in court so any revision should include a due process clause. Otherwise, I agree with RAG.

RAG said...

Time out. My post suggests giving the executive broader grounds for a leave of absence than currently exist rather than a suspension per se.

Anonymous said...

Deputy Sheriff just a "hired hand" insults deputies.

Anonymous said...

first anonymous replying again:

Well, RAG, you're the one that compared it to the situation that can be used with a deputy, so since that was your example, I thought that kind of suspension was what you meant. I still think the cautiousness of the current state statute is best.

AR: recall is time consuming, but it needs to be to avoid abuse by a minority inflamed for a moment.

Lastly, I didn't mean to be insulting to deputies, who I have the utmost respect for. Deputies provide my police protection and they do a great job. I only mean to say that as employees their relationship to voters is different than elected officials.

RAG said...

The recall law has its own problems that need fixing.

The first problem is the one-year grace period. Say the office holder takes office in April and get indicted in June. The voters aren't allowed their say for several months. That's wrong.

The second problem is that what if the allegations don't hold water and the office holder is eventually acquitted after being recalled? That doesn't seem fair (although someone doesn't have to be convicted to be recalled; in fact, a felony conviction is an automatic disqualification).

What's needed is an intermediate and immediate response that would allow for an office holder to take a leave of absence under these circumstances and also would allow for a due process suspension pending resolution.

This, of course, would not vitiate the availability of recall but provide intermediate and immediate alternatives.