County assessor spared from firing

Farm Forum

SELBY — The Walworth County board of commissioners chose on Nov. 10 to proceed with a work-improvement plan for county assessor Deb Kahl rather than vote whether to fire her.

Commissioner Kevin Holgard said the goal is to improve communication between the board and Kahl.

Holgard and Duane Martin voted for the work-improvement approach. James Houck and David Siemon, who haven’t been critical of Kahl’s performance, voted against.

Board chairman Scott Schilling paused for a long time before casting the tie-breaking vote in favor.

“We just want to tweak this,” Schilling said.

Last month the commission voted 3-2 to issue the required notice to Kahl that she would face a termination hearing. The termination motion had been on hold since March.

Martin said the county’s property values were on the mark in 2000 but have gone astray since.

He said the commissioners, in their roles as the board of equalization, have repeatedly needed to adjust values downward on non-agriculture property.

Kahl said she’s needed to raise values during the following year to correct the commission’s actions. That in turn triggers more appeals.

She said reducing the values for 100 properties in a hypothetical pool of 1,000 doesn’t change the other 900.

“I have never tried to cut off the lines of communication between the commission and myself — ever,” Kahl said.

The meeting attracted several officials from outside Walworth County who spoke.

They included state Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, and Brown County commissioner Duane Sutton, who is president for the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners.

Sutton suggested the Walworth County board look at whether Kahl is fulfilling her job description, decide whether the job description adequately meets the board’s expectations and adjust it as necessary.

“That might be a simple fix,” Sutton said.

Martin isn’t returning to the commission in 2017.