I would like to take this opportunity to explain some of the questions and concerns to the public over the Board Meeting that took place on Monday, August 19, 2019.
The County lacks transparency of salary increases when any employee receives an increase through the budgeting process and the Board does not officially approve them as an agenda item. For example, during the budgeting process I asked for and was approved to hire a cartographer for my office. At no time was I afforded the same opportunity to have this position baked into my budget. Apparently, all I needed to do was submit a name with my budget and it would have been done. Instead, I had to submit the obligatory forms and was put on the agenda for the Board to approve. This was done on the same day that Supervisor Minor brought before the public the department head increases without his knowledge or approval. An intense discussion was held and through the advice of the County Attorney were considered already approved. This process is not fair to the public. It is your tax dollars paying these salaries and they should be made public and approved by the supervisors at board meetings. The County has no policy and procedures in place for this process. All salaries are public information and provided by the Human Resources Department to the Arizona Association of Counties who prepares a report of employee salaries for all counties in Arizona. This report is prepared every year and is available on the internet. If any salaries were reported incorrectly, it is because those salaries were taken from the report.
Supervisor Minor brought up the fact that employee evaluations are not being performed. Except for Sheriff Bill Risen and me, it appears this is not being done yet increases are arbitrarily being given with no substantiated reasons or documentation. The County may be trying to work on updating the salary scales and job descriptions but that does not mean evaluations can not be done. Evaluations help employees know their strengths and weaknesses. They help supervisors determine if a raise is merited. Evaluations, salary scales, and job descriptions are three separate items and should not be thrown into one pot with the notion we cannot do anything until all three are resolved. We must start somewhere, and evaluations are simply too easy to not have this put into place immediately. If evaluations were done effectively, many of the raises to department heads should not have been given.
It is not easy for an elected official to hire employees. The process requires first to ask for permission by submitting a Personnel Action Request that must be approved by the HR Director, the Finance Director, and the County Administrator. There is no specific time frame that they must approve the request although I’ve been told it should be completed within two weeks. If any one of them hold a grudge, they can slow the process down considerably. A perfect example was a request to hire an appraiser for my office made on November 14, 2017 that was not reviewed by the HR Director until February 7, 2018 and then my request was denied. That’s almost three months. I could give several examples of this type of delay. The hiring of our new cartographer opened another slot in my office that I am trying to have filled. I submitted my request on August 8 and finally received the approval on August 21 – three weeks after I submitted them, several requests on the status, advice from the county attorney, and conveniently after the article came out on this board meeting. Mind you, this is already an approved and budgeted position, so I am not asking for more money. Now I need to prepare an agenda item with documentation to support my request for the Board to approve. I believe in transparency and have no problem putting my requests for the Board to approve, but my office should not be penalized in such delay because of personal reasons.
At call to the public I addressed the Board with reports from the Auditor General dating back to 2013 of the improper cash handling at the La Paz County Park. Year after year the County receives a negative report on this matter and no corrective action has taken place. In fact, the last report stated that the County would resolve this issue by June 30, 2019 but still not done. There is no way to know exactly how much cash is being taken in by the County Park. It should be the responsibility of the park director to do whatever is necessary to provide accurate records. How hard is it to have a receipt book to document the cash being collected? Then the Park increased its fees this year and gave the director a significant raise! A performance review would show the director is not doing his job and a raise would not be warranted. One wonders why accountability of cash is so difficult that more than six years has passed and still no corrective action taken. Isn’t this one of the very reasons why Dan Fields was let go? Or so broke we had to RIF several employees two years ago?
Finally . . .
I realize this is a long response, but the taxpayers deserve to know the frustration that myself and others have with the County processes. I am passionate about bringing issues to the taxpayers and being transparent. It is difficult to sit by and watch the double standards go on and not say something. I am here for the taxpayers and if you ever want to talk about issues going on in the County my door is always open.
La Paz County Assessor