MANKATO — One day after a district court judge ordered the entire Blue Earth County Board to appear before him or risk being jailed, County Administrator Bob Meyer said county officials are confident the matter will be resolved and that the Dec. 18 contempt of court hearing won't be held.
The contempt hearing is the latest in an on-going dispute between the board and the Blue Earth County Attorney's office over the pay scale for assistant county attorneys. The disagreement resulted in a salary appeal, which is allowed under state law for the employees of elected county positions such as county attorney.
After hearing testimony from Meyer and all five county commissioners this summer, Martin County Judge Robert Walker ruled that the board had violated state law in setting the salaries of the assistant county attorneys and had been illegally underpaying them in recent years. On Sept. 12, Walker ordered the board to develop a plan to adjust the pay of the attorneys and provide it to him within 60 days.
The board voted in October to appeal Walker's decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and failed to comply with Walker's order within 60 days, prompting Assistant County Attorney Chris Rovney — who has handled much of the legal work in the pay appeal — to request on Wednesday that Walker find the board in contempt of court.
Walker responded on Thursday with his order that the board appear before him on Dec. 18 to "show cause, if any you have, why the Court should not" hold the board in contempt of court "and for such other relief as the Court may deem just and equitable."
Meyer said the board's legal counsel in the case, Scott Lepak of Coon Rapids, is confident that the board's decision to appeal and paperwork he filed related to the appeal will persuade Walker that the contempt order would be inappropriate and that the Dec. 18 hearing won't be necessary.