Officials offer little comment on Bellmer’s resignation
WASHINGTON, Iowa (GTNS) – Washington County officials had little to say Thursday regarding the resignation of Washington County park ranger Bob Bellmer except to say that all decisions had been made with the knowledge of the Washington County Conservation Board and the Washington County Attorney.
Washington County Attorney Larry Brock confirmed Thursday that Bellmer had resigned effective Jan. 6. He said that Bellmer is on paid administrative leave until Monday. He said that details on the situation are a personnel matter, and he declined to discuss the situation. Brock also said that Bellmer is the only member of the conservation department he is aware of who is leaving the department.
When asked if the resignation had anything to do with the recent news that conservation director Steve Anderson had to pay fines to the Department of Natural Resources, Brock said it did not.
Anderson declined comment on the situation, except to say “any and all actions were done under the strictest input of the Washington County Attorney and the Human Resources Director.”
Co-worker Fritz Engel declined comment and referred any questions to Bellmer, also providing a phone number for Bellmer. Messages were left for Bellmer at his home and on his private cell phone. He had not returned The Journal’s calls before press time. According to the conservation department’s website, Bellmer has worked for Washington County since 1996.
Conservation board president Lyle Moen issued a statement, which read “Bob Bellmer had resigned effective 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6 and all decisions to this point have been made with full board approval and with full legal counsel. Personnel policies and privacy issues do not allow me to make any further comments on details. As a member of the Conservation Board it is my goal to work to restore the reputation of the Washington County Conservation Board.”
When asked if the full board had met in regards to the issue, Moen said it had not. He said that Bellmer’s resignation would be voted on during the board’s monthly meeting on Jan. 9. He said that his statement should have said that any decisions had been made with the consent of the board. He said that board members had discussed the situation by phone. He also said that this is common practice for board members to speak with each other by phone to discuss conservation issues.
Moen said the situation was discussed during a meeting between two conservation board members, Anderson and Brock. He also said that Anderson makes decisions regarding personnel in the conservation department, with the knowledge of the board.
According to the Iowa Open Meetings Act, if a quorum of the five-person board met to discuss a conservation issue, it would constitute a meeting and the law would require the meeting to follow an agenda which is posted 24-hours prior to the meeting and it would have to be open to the public unless a closed session is called.
Moen said that he didn’t believe any email communications were made regarding the situation with Bellmer. The Journal will file a Freedom of Information Act request with the Washington County Attorney’s Office for communications regarding the situation.
When asked if the conservation department needed its reputation restored, Moen said, “There is a lot of misinformation from people who don’t have the full details. We are no different than any other governmental agency in that we can’t give all the details for personnel reasons. This gives the public the opportunity to create or develop its own side of the story.”
After the Washington County Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday, supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said that the supervisors had received several communications regarding the situation. He said that the supervisors had been forwarding the communications to the conservation board.
– Linda Wenger contributed to this story