The issue of courthouse security has been a topic of concern for County Attorney Thomas Laehn. HERALD FILE PHOTO

Courthouse to be under surveillance

Security long seen as lax


For The Jefferson Herald

The Greene County board of supervisors at its Jan. 28 meeting approved provisional policies for courthouse security cameras and courthouse access.

County Attorney Thomas Laehn presented drafts of the provisional policies to the board after he met with the courthouse security committee.

The provisional policies will be in effect pending approval of final policies by the board. The final policies will be included in the county’s employee handbook.

Under the provisional camera policy, the security cameras will record video footage only, until and unless the board determines that the recordings should also include sound. The security committee will consider the pros and cons of recording sound and will recommend its decision to the board.

The county sheriff, county dispatcher and county information technology (IT) manager will have access to a live feed from the cameras at all times. In addition, the occupant of any office will have access to the live feed from a camera showing the area immediately outside that office.

No one else will be able to view footage from the cameras unless authorized by the sheriff or county auditor.

Stickers will be affixed to the courthouse exterior doors stating that security cameras have been installed in the building’s public areas.

Under the courthouse access policy, key fobs will be distributed to all department heads and other courthouse employees as approved by the department heads, the sheriff, resident judges and their court reporters, the juvenile court officer and other court employees and officials as recommended by the county clerk of district court, Iowa Department of Human Services employees with offices in the courthouse, and the staff coordinator at the Bell Tower.

The key fobs of the department heads will provide unrestricted access to the courthouse.

Fobs to other employees will provide access with any restrictions stated by their department heads, and all other fobs will provide access with any restrictions stated by the county auditor.

Thereafter anyone who wants a key fob must submit an application to the county auditor or her designee, who has discretion to approve or reject it.

After the three exterior doors have been rekeyed, physical keys also will initially be distributed to the sheriff, auditor, IT manager, county attorney and head custodian. The county auditor will consider other application requests submitted.

Key fobs of individual department employees can be deactivated on request from the chair of the supervisors, the auditor, the sheriff or the employee’s department head. The key fob of anyone can be deactivated by the supervisors’ chair, the auditor or the sheriff.

The courthouse’s exterior doors will automatically unlock at 8 a.m. and automatically lock at 4:30 p.m. on any day when the courthouse is open for business, except as approved otherwise by the county auditor’s office.

If a key fob is lost or stolen, the owner of the fob will be assessed a replacement fee of $10.

The sheriff, dispatcher and IT manager can lock down the courthouse at any time.

On another matter, Supervisor Pete Bardole reported that he and Laehn attended a two-hour meeting with the Bell Tower Community Foundation to discuss policies for playing live music on the tower’s carillon. Laehn said the main question is whether outside groups can request and choose music to be played.

Laehn said the Foundation recommends that outside groups or individuals should be allowed to choose music to be played.

Pluses for that policy are to promote use of the bells, the fundraising possibilities of such a policy and the resulting popularization of the tower’s bells.

The minus, he said, is the possibility of an offensive message being conveyed through the bell music.

If any group is able to have a music request played, then all requests would have to be allowed under First Amendment obligations, Laehn noted. However, the board would be able to determine the time, place and manner of playing the music.

Other factors that could come into play would be a musician’s eligibility and ability to play the bells. Laehn said the supervisors should decide how to appoint bell musicians. It will be up to the board to determine a policy for bell music under those guidelines, Laehn said.

It is expected that the supervisors will make a decision on the matter no later than the third week of February. 

The board also considered the county compensation board’s recommendations for adjustments to the salaries of county elected officials for fiscal year 2021-22, which begins July 1. The compensation board had recommended increases of 3 percent for all county officials except the sheriff, which it recommended for a 5 percent increase.

The supervisors reduced the recommendations by one-sixth, and provided increases of 2½ percent for all officials except the sheriff, who received an increase of 4.17 percent. Under the county’s standard policy, all other county officials in the various departments will receive the percentage increases of their office’s principal official.

Besides the sheriff, the other elected county officials are the attorney, auditor, recorder, treasurer and the five supervisors. 

Greene County’s total payroll for calendar year 2020, including part-time personnel, was about $4.5 million. That means the total payroll increase for fiscal 2021-22 will be about $120,000.

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