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Auditor upset over Warmka’s comments

By Staff | May 19, 2008

Commissioner and veteran Tom Warmka’s recent comments were noticed by the state auditor.

Faribault County officials deciding not to recover extra military leave paid to an employee didn’t go unnoticed, but it was a commissioner’s comments that really caught the state auditor’s attention.

Auditor Rebecca Otto told the Register on Monday that the “threatening nature” comments of Commissioner Tom Warmka were “pretty concerning to me.”

At their May 6 meeting, the District 5 commissioner expressed his disapproval that someone would contact state officials about the overpayment.

Although central services director Brenda Ripley never revealed the person’s identity, Warmka said, “They don’t want to go to war with me. I don’t take prisoners.”

Otto says good internal control is necessary to help safeguard public funds.

Employees and the public, she says, must feel safe to report any potential wrongdoings.

“A safe environment needs to come from the top. The fact that someone in that capacity said that was very disturbing,” adds Otto.

Warmka says he respects the state auditor and the job she’s doing. He says he has no issues with Otto and doesn’t plan to apologize for his comments.

The commissioner says he has an “open door” policy for citizens wanting to report any concerns about the operations of county government.

“Rebecca Otto doesn’t want to deal with me if they aren’t going to change the policy,” says Warmka. “If you are going to tread on a vet, I am going to be on you.”

Under state law and the county’s policy, a person is allowed 15 days a year for military service.

Commissioners decided to use the armed forces calendar year allowing 30 days of leave.

Otto says the county probably won’t be “written up” because the issue was addressed in a letter to County Auditor John Thompson.

“We recommend that the county comply with Minnesota law when granting paid military leave,” Otto wrote in her letter.

County Attorney Brian Roverud says the Legis-lature must change the law to permit more leave time for military personnel.

Contrary to legal advice, the board was in total agreement not to seek repayment from the soldier.

In the future county officials plan to abide by state law.

Warmka says this situation was unique because the country is involved in a war and the soldier was serving in a hostile environment.

“I won’t tolerate people turning against soldiers in a time of war. It’s unacceptable,” Warmka says.