Dan Field is done as La Paz County Administrator after the last Board of Supervisors meeting of the current term. Officially he is to be ‘terminated for no cause’ at the end of a 3-month paid administrative leave.
Field’s role as Administrator had been a topic of the 2016 election season, with District 2 Supervisor-Elect Duce Minor stating his intentions to move to fire him if he was elected. Minor was then elected last month and takes office in January. Today’s decision in front of the Supervisors appears to have been a calculated preemption of such a move by Minor, and came up on the agenda in the last regularly scheduled meeting of the Board in the current term, and King Clapperton’s last as Supervisor.
After going through several other agenda items in front of a packed boardroom, the Board went into an executive session in private, where, behind closed doors, Field and the Supervisors discussed his role as Administrator and specifically how it should end.
Then, the Supervisors reconvened in open session and held a vote. D.L. Wilson made a detailed motion, beginning with placing Field on administrative leave to start on January 1st, 2017. He will remain on the County payroll with full benefits to use up approximately 3 months of accrued vacation time. After this period he will be terminated “for no cause”, and if he has not secured another job his collecting unemployment will not be contested by the County. In addition, any requested references from the Board will be neutral at minimum.
Holly Irwin responded to Wilson’s motion by saying, “Inasmuch as I don’t want to do that, I will go ahead and second that.”
She added some nice words about the job Field had done. “I was responsible for hiring him and I can see the direction that the new Board is probably going to go,” she said. “I’m very concerned with how the day-to-day operations are going to take place.” She thanked Field for getting the County through the recession, financial auditing, the Yakima judgment, and other intricacies of the role.
The motion was passed unanimously, with Holly adding that Field himself approved of the action. The subject of who to appoint as an Interim County Administrator was tabled for future discussion.
Field made a prepared statement in advance, in which he thanked the Board and the public for the opportunity to work with the Board and serve in the position he has.
“I want to especially thank my bosses,” he said. “Without their support and friendship, this job would have been much harder and unbearable.”
He also referenced D.L. Wilson’s motion to fire him back in September 2015, saying that Wilson is “a very smart man” and that he respected Wilson’s belief that the County needed a new direction.
“Even though I was retained by a majority vote, we’ve worked together ever since that happened. It’s time to allow the County to take that different direction as well as myself.”
Field added that he believes the new Board should not be burdened by the stigma of having to take this decision at the beginning of a new term. He said that 20 years ago, almost to the exact date, he was in an almost identical position with a similar agenda item regarding his dismissal, and he hopes this ending will be as friendly as that one.
In another indication of the unusual nature of this meeting, Supervisor King Clapperton took a stance of opposition to several routine items which would have raised salaries or approved promotions for several County employees in various departments.
“We don’t have the money, folks,” Clapperton told the audience in explanation. “I think that we are absolutely in dire straights according to everything I understand.”
He said that he supports the employees and them ‘moving up’, and would even support retroactively applying the salary increases, but not until the new Board is able to assess the financial situation of the County in 2017 and the Finance Director agrees that the County can support it.
D.L. Wilson said that he understood the fiscal concerns Clapperton raised, but said that there was nothing in this agenda that warranted undue special scrutiny, and that the moves were justified.
“To me, it’s not fair to promote an uncertified deputy position and not pay them for it,” he said.
Each agenda item was passed anyway, mostly by a 2 to 1 vote with Clapperton opposing.
Clapperton was thanked and applauded for his 4 years of service, which he described as being “like ice-skating in a windstorm.” Sharon Schuler was also publicly thanked for her service to the County as Assessor.
Parker Live spoke to Field after the meeting, and he said he wants to remain in the Parker area where he and his wife have raised their children. “I really like the people here,” he said.