Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,
Several weeks ago, I reported on the vacation time used by six North Dakota elected officials: the governor, attorney general, insurance commissioner, agriculture commissioner, tax commissioner and superintendent of public instruction.
For space reasons, I limited it to those six. I recently was asked to look at the vacation time of other state officials. I’ll feature three officials this week and the three Public Service commissioners next week.
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:
State Auditor Bob Peterson
“I’ve taken 10 days of personal/vacation time this year. No sick time. Last year, it was seven days. No sick time. I don’t have a method. I just use my judgment.”
State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt
How many days did you take off in 2010? Records prior to Aug. 1, 2010, have been purged from the system and are no longer available. Annual leave: 6. Sick leave: 2. Family leave: 5.
How many days have you taken this year? Annual leave: 6 days. Sick leave: 1. Personal leave: 5. This was a political trip to Washington, D.C., paid at my expense.
How do you go about determining how many days off you take each year? Agency workload and board meeting schedules are always taken into consideration when determining vacation time. As a family, we traditionally take time over the Fourth of July and Christmas holidays.
As parents, Chuck and I do our best to be available to help celebrate our sons’ life accomplishments.
Annual leave is days which were taken off during regular business hours. Weekend and evening hours are always part of the job and expected. These weekend and evening commitments would more than make up for the amount of annual leave taken.
If using the state employee’s annual leave calculation, seven years of (service) would be entitled to 15 days of annual leave.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger
“Since statewide elected officials are not allocated a set amount of days for sick leave or vacation leave, I have not tracked my ‘out of the office’ days during my 18-plus years as secretary of state. Most often, my absence is related to office duties and not many ‘full’ days have been for personal reasons.
“Regardless of the cause of my absence, I still maintain daily Monday-Friday contact with my office and do office-related work each day on my laptop. Then, upon my return, I use evenings and weekends to catch up and do what could not be done while absent from the office. It is a tradeoff, which I don’t mind. When I am absent for personal reasons, it is definitely related to family.”
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 politics@wday.com (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.