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Hubbard County to hire third full-time attorney after losing part-timer

Don Dearstyne

Two months ago Michael Plante appeared before the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners to tell them he was job hunting if members wouldn't elevate his position to full-time.

The promising young attorney, fresh out of law school with loans to pay back, found work - in Wabasha County after Hubbard County invested an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 training him for his new job. Plante was one of the top candidates in four of the six counties he applied to.

The board authorized hiring a third full-time attorney for the office after a 15-month vacancy.

"Has he got his U-Haul here already?" asked commissioner Don Carlson, wondering if the county could get Plante back.

He started his new job this week, the board was informed.

It was a tough lesson in economics.

"We try to save money every way we can but there's a point where you're penny wise and pound foolish," board chair Lyle Robinson said.

The board grudgingly allowed Plante's hiring in December after County Attorney Don Dearstyne kept repeatedly asking for help.

But Plante couldn't afford to stay around on a part-time salary with no benefits and told the board that.

County Attorney Don Dearstyne said he could juggle his wage expenditures to accommodate the added expense and still come in under budget at the end of the year.

"The workload is there to justify it; the caseload is there," Dearstyne said, presenting annual case statistics to the board.

"We let a guy go that was doing the job," Carlson lamented.

Assistant County Attorney Erika Randall, who will be on maternity leave in November, said if the board filled the position part-time again "it will be a revolving door" as young attorneys get the same training Plante received and leave.

She said due to extensive training, it actually burdens the office more until the third person is fully trained to handle cases and trials.

"We took the training wheels off and off he went," Dearstyne said.

The board unanimously approved hiring a new full-time attorney.

Several years ago the county contracted the services of local attorneys while offering them health benefits for performing prosecutorial work.

"Junking the system and going with full-time attorneys appears to be a pretty good deal," Robinson said in approving the new hire.

"We'd love to have him back," said Dearstyne of Plante.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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