Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

Here is the third installment of asking state officials about their vacation time. (If you missed the others, see installment 1 here and installment 2 here.)

As I reported earlier, elected officials are free to set their schedules and days off. They do not report annual leave hours or sick leave. I asked these officials the same questions that I asked the others: how much time they took off last year, how much they have taken this year and how they determine how much is appropriate.

Here’s how they responded:

Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk

How many days off did you take in 2010? 0 sick days. Estimate 10 days’ vacation/personal time Days included visiting our daughter in college, hunting and personal days.

How many days off have you taken this year? 0 sick days. Estimate seven days’ vacation/personal time. Days included visiting our daughter in college, personal days and funerals. If it works out, I will probably take off some time to hunt this fall.

How do you go about determining how many days off you take each year? Basically, the hearing and meetings’ schedule (is) always priority. If I can get away and visit our daughter or hunt, I try to do that a few times a year. When I’m out of the office, I always make sure to check the emails several times a day and am always available by cellphone.

As elected officials, we don’t accrue days for sick leave or annual leave. So when you leave office, there is no “selling” back of leave to the state. When you’re done, you’re done.

Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark

“I checked my calendar to see if I could calculate it. It would appear it is set to remove old months’ data. It must be deleted after about six months because I don’t see many appointments prior to April 2011. So, I am unable to reconstruct 2010. Since April, I found nine days taken for personal/vacation leave.

“I don’t have any particular formula for determining how many days to take off each year. It is mostly a matter of making sure the job is getting done and that I am able to adequately prepare for and participate in commission meetings and agency business.”

Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer

How many days off did you take in 2010? In 2010, I did not take any family vacations but took the Friday after Thanksgiving off. I took a day in December for a family funeral. I also took a handful of Friday afternoons off in the summer and another day around Christmas. Everything else would be the occasional hour or two or a half day for board meetings or personal errands.

How many days off have you taken this year? I took one week in March to go on a vacation with my family, but participated in commission meetings and hearings via phone. I took a couple of Fridays off for personal time this summer and one to go on an Honor Flight and about three half days.

I had my teeth cleaned once, which took an hour. I also take an occasional hour or two for meetings of boards I am on (University of Mary, Roughrider Honor Flight). None of that time adds up to much and is more than made up for. In fact, in most cases it ends up involving as much constituency work as charitable work. I also took Tuesday and Wednesday (recently) off to travel on personal business but participated in PSC meetings via phone.

How do you go about determining how many days off you take each year? I go about determining how many days to take off by how many I need to work. This job is very demanding if you are going to do it right, and I choose to do it right.

Something I do that some have been critical of is I put everything on my official calendar, including political meetings and events. I’ve always found that the best regulation is transparency.

Even if I end up with a spontaneous coffee break with a friend or political person, I will put it on my calendar after the meeting to avoid being accused of secret meetings. Of course, serving on a three member commission, transparency is critical.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.