WATERLOO — A power struggle has developed over the Black Hawk County Health Department’s authority to control its personnel decisions.
The matter surfaced Tuesday when the county Board of Supervisors discussed whether it could withhold a portion of the department’s budget next year until vacant positions included in that spending plan actually get filled.
Assistant County Attorney Michael Treinen, who represents the Board of Health, called the proposal “problematic” and an apparent violation of state laws granting the board of health power over filling, creating or eliminating staff positions.
“This in my judgment usurps from the board of health and from the health department a considerable portion of its autonomy,” Treinen said.
The county Board of Supervisors is responsible for setting budgets for all county departments and commissions. But state law gives broad spending discretion to autonomous boards, including health, conservation and veteran affairs, once those budgets are approved.
“The health department intends to fill these positions,” Treinen said. “Hinging the subsequent filling of health department positions on subsequent approval by this board, I believe that crosses a line into the territory into the board of health.”
Supervisor Craig White took exception to the health department pushing back against his proposal to hold back a portion of the budget until the vacancies were filled.