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County auditor is suspended

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Hubbard County Auditor Pam Heeren was suspended without pay for 20 workdays Wednesday afternoon.

Although the suspension was to take effect Sept. 26, Heeren, who could not be reached for comment, apparently elected to leave her office immediately.

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Hubbard County Coordinator Deb Thompson said the suspension "was to address a disciplinary matter," refusing further comment.

According to an official disciplinary report Heeren allegedly:

n Violated the county's internet/computer policy;

n Made "rude and disrespectful communications toward others;"

n Violated the county's personnel policies regarding hours of attendance and overtime.

The item was not on the publicly posted agenda Wednesday morning, but was hastily added to a revised agenda just before the 9 a.m. regular board meeting.

When asked why the last minute addition, Thompson said, "because we didn't know for sure if we were going to have it or not."

Reporters were told, when the board meeting was closed Wednesday, that it was for union negotiations, which actually came after the discussion of Heeren's suspension.

Department heads that work closely with Heeren seemed stunned by the action Thursday, as did County Attorney Don Dearstyne, who was not consulted.

Heeren's voicemail is the voice of deputy auditor Sandy Rittgers, who indicates Heeren would be back on the job Oct. 25.

Board chair Greg Larson, who did not attend Wednesday's meeting, said he could not comment on the suspension.

"I don't know what I can say and what I can't say," Larson said.

Heeren received a 35-year service award last year. Her departure comes at a crucial time during the county budgeting process.

Commissioners have praised her experience and leadership in helping get them through tough fiscal times and keeping the county's funds solvent the past several years.

Hubbard County is actually in better fiscal shape than its neighbors, with ample reserves in the bank. Overall, Heeren has received high marks for her service to the county.

Heeren is actually the Auditor/Treasurer after those offices were combined in 2004. Her total compensation package is $89,155. She is an appointed official.

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