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Public works unrest stirs voters

Workers say that the commissioners’ views of Mink are a factor.
Friday, October 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:23 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some employees of the Boone County Public Works Department, complaining of a tense and uncomfortable work environment, hope their concerns will be an issue on Election Day.

Greg Mullanix, a union steward and heavy-equipment operator for 20 years, said some employees are working to prevent the re-election of Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller, who he called “a barrier to change.”

Miller and Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin are the two Democratic commission incumbents up for re-election.

Mullanix would not elaborate on the public works employees’ efforts.

“I also hope people see that Skip Elkin has been honest about it,” Mullanix said, referring to Elkin’s acknowledgment of the problem.

Mullanix said his split opinion of the commissioners is a result of their opposite views on Public Works Director David Mink.

Miller thinks department operations have improved since August, when commissioners reprimanded Mink for accounting irregularities and mistreatment of subordinates and advised him to change his management style.

Elkin, however, thinks a management change might be necessary.

Mink has “burned a lot of bridges out there,” Elkin said.

Elkin has expressed a lack of confidence in Mink. In a previous e-mail to the Missourian, Elkin said he is disturbed with how public works employees have been treated and knows of no one who is respected in the department’s top management.

“You can dictate policy, but you can’t dictate respect,” Elkin wrote.

Mink was hired in 2000 and makes an annual salary of $90,043. He did not return a call for comment.

In previous interviews with the Missourian, Mink said problems existed in his department but that he was trying to develop more trust with workers.

Gordon McCune, a truck driver and union steward, said he is just one of many workers who think things are not improving. When Mink recently took a trip to Haystack Acres, a part of his promise to visit work sites more often, McCune said the visit rapidly spiraled into a dispute regarding overtime pay.

Low morale has already caused a few workers to leave, McCune said.

Miller, however, said many workers she has talked to have accepted Mink and the changes in overtime rules that came with the union negotiations. Under the new rules, employees will receive overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week instead of overtime for working more than eight hours per day.

“My job is to look out for all the taxpayers, not just the road-and-bridge workers,” Miller said.

Mike Asmus, Miller’s Republican opponent, and Jerry Carrington, Elkin’s Republican opponent, have been largely quiet on the issue.

Asmus said he thinks Mink is largely responsible for the turmoil, although he said he would need more information before deciding whether Mink should be fired.

“The warning signs are certainly there,” Asmus said. “I’m thinking that if I’d been on board for four years, I might have seen this coming.”

He said he would do a thorough review of the situation, interviewing workers, management and everyone else involved.

Carrington thinks the quality of work done and materials purchased by the department are most important, but he said the commission should have acted sooner to address the problems.

“If I’m not satisfied with him, I’m going to put him on notice right away,” Carrington said, adding that he, too, would seek a review of the department if elected.


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