County board to continue Alternative Work Site program

Cook County Board of Commissioners
Cook County Board of Commissioners

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The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to approve an Alternative Work Site (AWS) plan for Public Health and Human Services Director Sue Futterer on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Three months ago Futterer requested the board allow her to relocate to Virginia, MN while retaining her position as department head. She said she would still be in the county a good share of a week, would maintain a local residence, and would telecommute when out of the county. Her husband recently became superintendent of Virginia schools.

County Attorney Tim Scannell worked on writing up a proposal for the AWS arrangement with Commissioners Bob Fenwick and Jan Hall. The draft, which was approved by the county board Tuesday, closely mirrors a proposal offered earlier Futterer.

“In essence what we have is a relatively brief document that establishes parameters for Sue Futterer as Director of Health and Human Services to work from an alternative office which is in her other home in Virginia,” said Scannell. “It defines the terms for doing that and it would create a contract for that specific purpose between the director and the county; it’s not a re-envisioning of her responsibilities, her job. It’s just specifically the issue of allowing her to work from the alternate office for part of her time.”

Scannell further said the AWS plan is not designed as a job appraisal, but rather an appraisal of how the AWS plan is working.

In a letter to the board, Futterer outlined her in and out of county time since the plan started as a pilot. She said that since Nov. 1, there have been six county holidays, as well as several days of paid leave she was scheduled to use in December. “There were 65 work days during the pilot period,” she wrote. “Approximately 21 days were spent working in the courthouse office, 14 days attending out of town meetings, conferences, etc. and 12 days spent working from an AWS.” She also used 12 days of planned leave for health and vacation reasons.

Chair Fritz Sobanja asked two department supervisors in attendance for comments on the AWS pilot so far. Fiscal Supervisor Jan Parish said that during this time, “I’ve not had to make a decision that otherwise Sue would have made. I just want to assure you about that. There has been no change in my job duties.”

Social Services Supervisor, Grace Bushard agreed. “Work flow has gone as before and again we’re very clear as to what Sue’s domain is and whose job it is when something comes up.” Bushard added, “If it’s something Jan and I can’t deal with Sue’s always available and we’ve had a really good flow of decision making. I’ve been really satisfied with how things have gone.”

Commissioner Jim Johnson said that his recent experience with Human Services had been very good. “I had to contact Sue last week over an issue that came up,” he said. “I called Social Services number, dialed right in. She answered on the first ring. She researched the issue and a couple hours later she called me back. I don’t know if she was in her office. I don’t know if she was in Virginia. I don’t know where she was.” He added that the issue was handled just as it normally would. “In fact I was impressed with how well it was handled.”

Commissioners voted for the Alternate Work Site plan four to one. Hall voiced her dislike for any out-of-county arrangement.

“I agree with the work plan and how it was re-written,” said Hall. “But I still disagree with the initial plan of working out of county.”

The board will conduct on-going reviews and the plan may be terminated by either party on ten days notice.


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