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County discusses raise issue

By Staff | Nov 4, 2011

Approximately 10 county employees attended the Nov. 1 meeting of the Pierce County Commissioners. All of the employees were invited to come and share concerns about a recent decision by the commissioners to pay an increase in health benefits and a 2% raise for all county employees.

The county employees’ expectations were that they would each receive a 3% raise based on what they heard was being budgeted for them. The commissioners had discussed a 3% raise for the employees, but when they learned that the health costs were being increased, they revisited the issue and made a different decision. At this point, nothing had been set in stone, yet.

Elaine Little, administrator, Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center (HACTC), representing the employees of HACTC, told the commissioners that her employees asked her to convey their gratitude to the commission for past raises and benefits. She said the employees did question why they were being penalized for some courthouse employees whom they had been told were not doing their jobs.

Commissioner Mike Christenson said he had made the motion that the county pay for the increase in health insurance and a 2% raise for each of the employees. He said that the wording of his motion did not include job performance.

“Was it ever discussed at the October meeting that a few employees were not doing their jobs?” asked Little.

Joe Bohl responded, “Not at this table, I don’t think.” However, Dave Migler and Rick Larson added that discussion on employees who didn’t seem to be doing their jobs as directed was part of the discussion, but not part of the motion. Christenson and Duane Johnston concurred that was correct. It had been discussed.

The bottom line, however, was that the budget cannot be adjusted upward once it has been published in the paper, which it had been. The commissioners assured those in attendance that they would certainly look at having employee evaluations in the future.

“The downside of employee evaluations is every supervisor rates differently,” said Little who has had much experience in this area. She added that she had conducted anonymous employee surveys where employees could vent their frustrations on the job. She found this method to be helpful.

Discussion continued on leaving the decision to hire and to fire up to each supervisor who knows best which employees under their supervision are doing their jobs and who are not. The supervisors could then make the recommendations to the county commissioners for approval or denial.

The employees in attendance seemed interested in supervisors deciding who is doing the job and who is not. Sheriff Matt Lunde, an elected official, who supervises the county deputies, said, “I would like to see (employee) evaluations.”

Hiring a human resources manager to handle employee concerns was also discussed.

“A big part of human resources is communication,” said Little.

In answer to the commissioners’ query about whether or not she would consider being the human resources person, she responded, “As long as you realize I am not a human resources professional, but I have had lots of experience in it.”

No final decision was made about hiring a human resource employee but the commissioners are willing to explore that option.

“What’s done is done for this year,” said Pierce County State’s Attorney, Galen Mack, who is also an elected county employee. He agreed that there has to be better communication between the commissioners and the employees, especially on issues of concern.

Commissioner Rick Larson continued to express his concern about addressing employee issues so the courthouse doesn’t lose any more employees. “One has left already,” he added.

In one other related issue, the commissioners voted to accept the resignation of Peggy Burgard. Migler, Johnston, Christenson, voted in favor and Larson voted against accepting the resignation. Burgard was present.

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