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County administrator quits abruptly

Wittkamp cites lack of support from board chairman

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 2:07 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 9:53 p.m. CST

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Grundy County Administrator Chris Wittkamp quit her position Tuesday morning, just days after Human Resources Director Dan Hoppe was terminated.

"I have a hard time working when I don't have the support of the County Board chairman," she said Tuesday afternoon.

She said after she left a meeting with Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson and other board members, she wrapped up what she was working on, and told some board members she would be available at home if she was needed, but she could not work for Severson anymore. She quit with no notice, her resignation becoming effective immediately Tuesday.

Personnel Committee Chairwoman Vicki Geiger said she and the committee vice chairman, John Almer, were present in a lengthy meeting this morning with Severson and Wittkamp.

"We discussed moving forward in a cooperative effort," Geiger said. "We really need a strong chairman and county administrator to work together to be successful."

But Geiger said what they learned was Severson was not comfortable working closely with Wittkamp and he would like to find a replacement.

"Without my knowledge, she was behind the firing of Dan Hoppe, one of the best employees the county had and that's felt by a number of people," Severson said.

"I have a plan to bring him back," he continued.

Hoppe was let go Friday after the Personnel Committee approved his termination Thursday evening. Geiger said Hoppe was a qualified individual, but not a good fit for the county.

Geiger said the committee's decisions need to be respected and supported by the chairman, including the termination of Hoppe.

"We can't have personal agendas and need to remember we are here for the taxpayers," Geiger said.

The committee's decision to fire Hoppe was not made easily. It was a lengthy discussion, and despite Hoppe's previous comments that he did not get a chance to defend himself, Geiger said he was talked to previously by her, Wittkamp and board member Chris Balkema regarding their concerns and what they would like to see improved.

"There were very specific reasons why the committee felt he was not the right fit for the county," she said. "Our chairman obviously disagrees and if he feels he has the authority to override his Personnel Committee, and I'm not aware that he does, then I'm not sure why we do any kind of interview process." Severson said he already has a plan he hopes to put forth for the administrative team and it includes Hoppe, who he said is an excellent employee who has brought a lot of things up to date for the county.

"I'm flattered Ron would think that way of me," Hoppe said Tuesday. "I have always had an excellent working relationship with Ron. I have the utmost respect for him and think he is an excellent leader." Hoppe did not want to comment further on Severson's plans for him.

Severson said a special meeting of the County Board may be called.

"I have a plan to have these positions filled within the next few days," he said.

"It'll all be worked out," Severson said. "We've had controversy before and we'll get it resolved." Wittkamp did not want to comment on details surrounding her departure, but said she loved her job and the people she worked with who work tirelessly for Grundy County.

"I just don't know if [Severson] really wants to have a county administrator or not," she said. Severson was not supportive of her when the Personnel Committee moved her from part-time to full-time in July, she said, and has continued to not support her.

"I can't say enough about the teams I've worked with and the committees I have attended," Wittkamp said. "I've been very, very blessed with what I have been able to do, but I do feel my hands are tied."

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