June 21, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Johnson County hires Government Relations Coordinator as taxpayer-funded lobbyist

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Johnson County has hired a Government Relations Coordinator at a salary of $122,000 per year.  The new position increases county staffing was not approved by the Johnson County Commission, but according to Public Affairs Director Jody Hanson, was filled by County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson.

“In order to stay abreast of the growing legislative issues and opportunities impacting county government, cultivate strong regional relationships to amplify the county’s voice on shared issues, and better support the BOCC as policymakers in legislative matters at the local, state and federal levels, including pursuing federal grant opportunities, the county manager (under her authority in the Home Rule Charter) used an existing vacant FTE (Full Time Equivalent) for this position,” Hanson said in an email. “Thus, this action did not increase the FTE count in the budget.”

Hanson declined to identify the new employee pending their first day on June 10. According to Johnson County Communications Specialist Anne Christiansen-Bullers, the salary represents an increase over the pay grade budgeted for the position.

“Each position in the county is assigned to a pay grade, and for budget purposes, we budget vacant positions at the mid-point of that range,” she said via email. “The vacant position was a pay grade 18 with a mid-point of $97,850. The new job description was assigned a pay grade 20 with a mid-point of $131,582.”

Acknowledging that a position was budgeted last year but is unfilled likely means the position in the budget is a “ghost employee.”  It’s common government practice to approve and budget for vacant positions to pad the budget.  That’s why Johnson County is careful to say the Government Relations Coordinator “did not increase the FTE count in the budget” rather than say the hiring didn’t increase employment.

According to the job posting, the position will be responsible for “strategically advocating and representing the county’s interests to government officials at the local, state and federal levels.”

However, Hanson admits that other employees were already performing the duties of the government relations coordinator.

“Previously, our government and legislative relations were conducted by staff who had an interest and specialty in this area but had many other duties and responsibilities,” Hanson wrote.

This begs the question — why are Johnson County taxpayers footing the bill for a new taxpayer-funded lobbyist (to ask state and federal officials for more taxpayer money) when the role was being handled by existing staff?

Johnson County adds government relations coordinator even as taxes increase and AGI flees

Choosing to increase the cost of government leads to higher property taxes.

Johnson County Commissioners have voted to increase property tax by 25% over the last five years.  Since 1997, Johnson County property taxes have increased 335%, which is 2.6 times more than the combined increases in inflation and population.

Increasing costs with a government relations coordinator wiill lead to higher property tax

Further, the most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) migration data from 2021 shows Johnson County had a net loss of more than $227 million in residents’ adjusted gross income due to domestic migration over a five-year period, having had net losses in four of the last five years.  


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