New chair elected for Eau Claire County Board

Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 9:46 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire County Board elects Interim Board Chair Nancy Coffey as their new leader a week after ousting Nick Smiar in a special session.

Tuesday night’s regular session started with a roll call and one of the top items on the agenda was to select the new chair of the county board.

Coffey and Stella Pagonis were nominated for chair of the county board, and after a 15 - 12 vote Coffey became the new chair and will lead the board until Spring 2024.

This comes after a special session looking into the findings of the investigation for the 2019 Department of Human Services Budget resulted in a motion to remove Smiar as chair of the board.

The private firm the board hired, von Brieson and Roper, concluded that no malicious intent was behind a $1.1 million discrepancy that threw the DHS budget over by more than $3 million. The La Crosse DA Tim Gruenke also did not file criminal charges against anyone in the case.

Still, board members felt that a change in leadership was needed after the years spent on the investigation and time spend holding special sessions reviewing the findings. Members of the community were also given the opportunity for public comment during that time.

Before the vote, Coffey and Pagonis said some words regarding their bid for chair and the investigation that led to Smiar’s ousting.

“As we move forward as a board, I hope we can move out of the storm. As Supervisor Larry said, I think we need to move forward. We can do this by listening and respecting each other. Even when we disagree. If we don’t agree with their analysis, let’s work to find common ground,” said Coffey.

There is still no special session scheduled yet continuing the DHS investigation findings.