Douglas County panel makes changes to proposed jail bonus program

Jail employees would not be required to repay bonuses they've already earned under the proposed recruitment and retention policy.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wisconsin. (Jed Carlson /
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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Douglas County’s Administration Committee made a change to the recruitment and retention program for the Douglas County Jail before it heads to the county board.

Board members eliminated a requirement that bonuses paid out during the two-year incentive period would have to be repaid if recruits came up short of two years continuous employment.

“We’re going to back and take $1,000 from employees that had been working for us,” said Mark Liebaert, county board chairman and administration committee member. “I’m not sure that’s a real good idea.”

Under the program, participants in the program would receive increasing bonus payments every three months for the first year of employment and would receive the final payment at two years for a total of $4,200.

At three months of employment, jail staff and sergeants would receive $300, 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.


PREVIOUSLY: Douglas County to consider bonuses for jailers, sergeants

“Small carrots are being dangled in front of them, so they won’t forget the big carrot is out there,” said Alan Jaques, chairman of the administration committee.

“If they’ve been there a year, they’ve earned that,” Supervisor Pat Ryan said.

After more than a year of service, Liebaert noted that staff who leave employment in the jail would end up owing the county $2,200.

“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,” Liebaert said. “I would like to have that part out of there.”

Supervisor Nick Baker made a motion, seconded by Liebaert, to eliminate the requirement that bonuses be repaid if the employee doesn’t complete two years of continuous employment.

“If they completed it, they did the job,” Baker said. “They got the reward for it. You really hurt some people … I don’t think that should be part of the agreement.”

The committee voted to eliminate the repayment of bonuses already paid out and designated the county administrator as the individual responsible for reviewing the policy every six months to determine if it is helping to eliminate critical staff shortages in the jail. It was created after a two-step wage increase for jail officers and sergeants did little to close the gap on staffing shortages in the jail.


The Douglas County Board considers implementing the policy Jan. 20.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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