ROCKY ROAD at County Commission

Two things we need to get straight right off the top regarding  today’s Grays Harbor Board of Commission meetings:

1) Buckle up (this will make sense in a min. Kindly keep your shirt on.)

2) Make sure you have a humungous banana split handy for the rest of this post. It’ll go down easier. I personally recommend Rocky Road with double hot fudge. (If you’re weight conscious, hold the banana.)

That said, county commishes have an often-thankless job. No matter what they do, they can’t make everyone happy on everything, all the time. They’re either the hack-offers or the hack-off-ees. Especially on matters budget-ish. Like staffing shortages and safety issues at the jail. Or transferring the Payroll/Benefits employee from the Auditor’s Office to Management Services.

You know. The fun stuff (this is where that banana split comes in).

Sheriff Rick Scott was in this morning, looking for BOC approval related to hiring four correction deputies. Scott said overtime spending in this area is “off the charts” and that the present inmate to staff ratio of eight to one is nearly double what’s recommended. Citing safety concerns related to the hire request, Scott also said the use of force in the jail is “escalating.”

“While I respect and share your concern for budget issues facing the county,” said Scott, the safety of his staff is “paramount.”  Noting overcrowding and mental health issues among inmates, Scott said filling the four positions would be a “substantial step toward safety and security.”

Commissioner Vickie Raines asked if the four positions were included in the 2016 budget request and “if approval was given today, you’d probably not hire them until January?”

Scott replied yes, and indicated that the “lengthy” interview process could move forward if his request was approved.

Commissioner Wes Cormier asked if “one or two positions” could be filled, could they then work toward filling four. Scott replied, “Anything’s possible.” Regarding short staffing, Scott explained that “the problem is two fold.” He said existing staff is “overwhelmed” trying to manage the exiting (jail) population, and staff is exhausted.

Commissioner Frank Gordon said he was good with hiring two correction deputies this year. Citing 2015 budget concerns, Raines moved to allow the sheriff to pursue hiring four correction deputies, doing the necessary screening this year and hiring in early January 2016. Gordon seconded. Discussion ensued related to timing, the number of applicants who could pass the screening process, and academy attendance.

I started looking for spare hot fudge about this time.

Scott wanted to begin the screening process now so he can later submit the name(s) of an individual(s) to the academy early next year. Early 2016 academy classes are slated for January and March.

Raines reworded her motion to allow for correction officers apps to begin the screening/testing process pronto, with a hire date to begin January 1, 2016. Scott asked what would happen if someone cleared the screening process before that. He also indicated that the Teamsters are doing “their own analysis” of the situation.

Dropped my extra banana. Shoot.

Raines voiced concern over injuries that have already occurred and potential liability issues.

The request was approved on a 2 to 1 vote. Concerned about the potential impact to the budget, Commissioner Wes Cormier voted No, saying he’d rather hire two officers now, see how things are going, and then revisit the question of another two hires at a later time.

Did ya get all that? If you didn’t, don’t worry. I have an extra spoon. Just don’t ask for any of my Rocky Road. Cuz I’m not sharing.

Anyway, County Auditor Vern Spatz was added to the morning’s agenda. He weighed in on a resolution transferring a payroll/benefits employee from the Auditor’s office to Management Services. He was not a happy camper.

Spatz opened with, “I think I’m here to add to the problems caused by the budget.” Spatz sees the proposed resolution, brought forward by Raines, as an attempt to “dismantle my office.” He said the resolution/solution was received by email, not phone or in person and expressed frustration with inadequate review or input.

Raines countered that the auditor was provided a copy of the resolution “as an option” at a meeting two weeks ago. She said she had indicated previously that some restructuring would be going on, that the resolution was “not personal” and is not trying to “gut” the Auditor’s department. She said she’s looking at all areas to utilize people effectively in all departments.

Spatz said he identified a problem and that his office needed help handling mandated issues. The issues came about as one of those pesky unfunded mandates related to Obamacare and employee benefits. Dang.

It kinda sorta went sideways from there.

Spatz accused Raines of “dismantling payroll.” Raines said “We’re not collapsing at this point, but we’re in danger of that.”

Spatz said it doesn’t make sense to transfer payroll to the Board of Commissioners’ Office. Raines said Spatz was trying to “grand stand in front of the media” in his remarks. Spatz said, “It’s an ill conceived, hastily done decision” and that “apparently we’re cutting off all discussion.” He said he was going public with the matter. Raines said, “Then go public.” Raines said she was “equally frustrated” with the situation. Spatz provided copies of an email discussion related to the resolution. See below.

Oh, and stay tuned for more at the 2:00 meeting.

Spatz spoke during the first public comment period at the afternoon meeting. He urged the commishes to “reject or reconsider” the reso related to moving the payroll administrator out of the Auditor’s office. He reiterated his view that it was a “hasty decision, not well thought out” and expressed concern that discussions have been “private” between one of the Board members and him.

He said it hadn’t been an open or transparent process and constituted “micro-management” of his office. Spatz also said he’d be willing to work with the BOC to come up with a solution, saying, “Give me the resources in the Auditor’s office and I’ll do what needs to be done.”

Spatz said the Auditor’s office has been doing payroll since the 1800s. He voiced concern that the payroll administrator change was done “hastily, not in a transparent manner” and would constitute a significant change in government.`

Raines moved to approve the resolution. Cormier seconded.

County Prosecuting Attorney Katie Svoboda asked if the commissioners would be able to table the resolution for a week or two. She said she didn’t realize it would be on today’s agenda. She said it would effect her office and had questions related to the ACA and unfunded mandates it generated.

Hate to say ‘I told you so’ on the ACA, but… hey…

Raines said she thought the location of the payroll administrator would remain the same but that they county can’t afford to hire someone additionally. She said the county has “three, maybe four” individuals on staff who can provide that service in addition to Benefits. She stressed cross-training as being more cost effective than hiring more staff.

Sovoboda suggested putting the resolution off “for a week or two” to allow for more discussion and input.

Commissioner Frank Gordon agreed with Commissioner Raines, saying he’d like to have “at least a week to study it” and gain more information, perhaps making the change around the first of next year.

Raines withdrew her motion and suggested placement on the November 2 agenda. Stay tuned.

Still with me? Good. Cuz now would be a good time to scoop out some more Rocky Road and round up another banana. Just sayin’.

Anywho, the payroll admin move came up again during the afternoon media session. Raines said the Auditor has concerns over the Payroll Administrator taking over tasks related to the ACA in January. She said Spatz said the addition of new responsibilities would be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Characterizing the Auditor’s “micro-manage” comments as “odd,” Raines said she and her fellow commishes are looking at ways to utilize current staff to take on those additional duties. “It’s not personal to me” she said. “We’re trying to get the job done. … It’s a continuing issue… I don’t care how any job is done… so long as you get it from Point A to Point B. … Everyone’s pitching in to get the job done.”

Raines said it’s not about micro-managing but about proper management and cross-training. “It’s not a personal thing at all” said Raines. “I understand he (Spatz) has issues. His solution was to hire more people. I just can’t do that.”

Gordon concurred. “She’s (Raines) looking at the best use of dollars we have here. She’s doing the job she was voted in to do.” He said that even though each commish has different beliefs on running the county, they all want what’s best for Harborites.

Raines said the commishes are “really trying to look outside the box and do more without having to hire someone (they) may have to lay off in six months.”

Cormier said moving the payroll administrator from the Auditor to Management Services “will make it more seamless” related to getting info. and data, especially related to budget issues. “All you’re doing is pulling a person out” he said. “There’s no change other than their office. It’s a seamless transition. The same person is doing the job, just changing seats.”

“This is going to smooth it out,” agreed Gordon.

“You have to be creative and think outside the box,” said Cormier. “I think this will work.”

You’re not planning on hogging that last scoop all to yourself, are you?

Spatz 1

Spatz 2

Spatz 3