Back in November there was some controversy over Governor Jack Dalrymple handing out nearly $100,000 in bonuses to members of his staff.
The governor’s office defended the bonuses by pointing out that they were covered by existing appropriations. Lawmakers did not appropriate more dollars to the governor’s budget to pay for them. Also, it was argued that the bonuses were necessary to retain staff during Dalrymple’s final months in office after announcing that he wouldn’t be seeking another term.
“The rational is the governor is focused on seeing through some important objectives. To do so it’s important to retain the needed expertise of the staff that’s in place versus finding new and qualified staff for a job that has an expiration date,” Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent told me in November, also pointing out that there was a claw back provision in the bonuses for employees leaving early.
That has happened now. A staffer who got one of the largest bonuses is moving on early. Earlier this month the Bismarck Public Schools Foundation hired Kayla Effertz Kleven who had been serving as a senior policy adviser to Dalrymple.
As you can see from this chart of bonus pay I obtained from the governor’s office in November, Effertz Kleven receved over $18,000 in a retention bonus in 2015 as well as two performance bonuses totaling another $2,000:
I contacted Zent this morning about Effertz Kleven leaving, and he confirmed that she did have to give back some of her retention bonus.
“It’s already taken effect,” he said of the claw back provision noting that $5,338.30 had been taken out of her pay.
He said that staffers, including himself, who left before November would have had to give back the entirety of their bonuses. After November the claw back is prorated based on how much time is left in Dalrymple’s term, which is why Effertz Kleven didn’t have to give back the full bonus.
“No one else has left,” Zent told me when I asked if anyone else has had to give back some or all of their bonuses.
Dalrymple got a lot of criticism over these bonuses once news of them became public, and I agree both the timing of the bonuses and the amounts seem a bit tone deaf, but I think some of the events in state government in recent months cast the bonuses in a more positive light.
The state is facing a serious budget situation, what with revenues falling from oil boom level highs, and it wouldn’t be good if our governor was forced to face that situation without his long-term staff. I think the perception of these bonuses in November is that they were unnecessary because Dalrymple was going to coast through the last year of his term in office.
But there hasn’t been a lot of coasting going on.