Before it could even go before the Douglas County Board for an approval vote, the Administration Committee made a change to the plan to make staff re-pay a retention bonus back if they left employment.  The requirement was struck from the plan that will now go on to the full county board for a vote.

Committee members agreed that the change only makes sense.

The committee didn't make any other changes to the proposed retention bonus plan.  The total compensation that can be earned - and the term it takes to get there - remain the same.

As forwarded for a vote, the retention bonus plan for qualifying Douglas County jail staffers provides for a total of $4,200 that's available in increments over a two-year period of employment.  In other words, the longer an employee remains working for the Douglas County jail, the more bonus money they stand to get.   According to the article in the Superior Telegram [paywall]:

"At three months of employment, jail staff and sergeants would receive $300 (in bonus money), then $400 at six months, $500 at nine months, and $1,000 after the first year.  A final $2,000 bonus would be paid after two years of continuous employment."

Originally, the plan would have required an employee who leaves at some point during that two year window to pay back the total amount of bonus money they received.  The new plan strikes that requirement completely.

Douglas County, WI courthouse and government services building
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Douglas County Board Chairman and Administration Committee member Mark Liebaert explains:

"If we're willing to give them a bonus for staying three months, because that's a hard thing to do evidently, I wouldn't want to make them pay it back.  I would like to have that part out of there. "

Liebaert also suggested that making someone repay accumulated bonus money could be a hardship for the employee. Under the terms of the original plan, "(a)fter more than a year of service....staff who leave employment in the jail would end up owing the county more than $2,200".  Liebaert concluded:

"We're going to back (sic) and take $1,000 from employees that had been working for us. I'm not sure that's a real good idea."

Supervisor Nick Baker also agreed. "If they completed it, they did the job.  They got the reward for it.  You really hurt some people....I don't think that (repayment) should be part of the agreement."

With the change in place, the Douglas County Administration Committee moved to okay the plan.  Final approval for it rests with the Douglas County Board, who will meet next on January 20.

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