‘Micromanagement’ came under the spotlight as La Paz County’s recently-appointed Administrator Ron Drake told the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting that he would like more authority with regard to hiring, renewing contracts and employee travel.
The proposal relates to the process of filling vacant County employee positions, where the Board of Supervisors must explicitly authorize departments to advertise for a position, then explicitly authorize the hiring of a specific person to fill that position. Similarly, when an employee wishes to travel to a training conference or other event related to their job, it comes before the Board. The actions typically take the form of agenda items, with up or down votes by the Board on the specific items, and are typically approved.
Drake said he hopes the Board will assign more of that authority to him as County Administrator, the chief implementor of the polices and decisions of the Board of Supervisors, rather than every separate action having to come in front of the Board.
“These are administrative decisions,” Drake said, making his case. “We can check off if it’s in the budget, if it’s not in the budget, it would stay at my level and not rise to the Board level. So, that’s what I’m looking for today, or at least to open a discussion and if you want to table it, but I thought it was time that this gets brought to the staff’s attention and maybe we can streamline the Board meetings.”
As a response to the County’s recent financial crisis, the Board took drastic action to get its fiscal situation under control earlier this year, including a hiring freeze. In doing so, it took some of the decisions that would normally have remained with the County Administrator back under its control.
Several examples were present in the agenda in front of the Board Tuesday. Earlier in the same meeting, the Board had approved the appointment of a Legal Assistant at the County Attorney’s office along with two 911 Dispatchers at the Sheriff’s Department. All three were existing jobs, but with vacancies that needed filled. The County Administrator did not have the authority to approve the hirings himself.
“I’m asking with respect to my position and my experience that the Board would recognize that we’re going to do our due diligence and hire the right person,” Drake said, referring to an example like a 911 Dispatcher. “We’re going to have the budget in mind when we’re reviewing that person, H.R. says that that person is capable and qualified for that position, and take it out of the policymakers’ hands for that type of approval.”
The proposal opened up a lengthy discussion between the Supervisors, Administrator Drake and Deputy County Attorney Glenn Buckelew. District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor said he agrees with the general direction Drake wants to go in.
“I understand why we put these things in place when we did,” he said, “and if we’re gradually getting our way back to what we’d call normal, I’m not opposed. I’m not a fan of micromanagement and I understand the benefit of putting it at the administrative level as long as we see the financial impacts periodically.”
Minor added that if it is adopted, it should be as part of the County’s new comprehensive personnel policy and manual, which is currently in the works.
“It should probably come back to us in the form of a proposal with more specifics,” he said.
During Call to the Public, County Recorder Shelly Baker got up to agree with Drake.
“It seems redundant,” she said. “Once you approve [a position], and it’s within that set budget, I’d be in agreement with Administrator Drake that at that point it’s an administrative issue and it would be the very definition of micromanaging to have to keep coming back for approval for the same thing that was approved.”
At the end of the discussion the Board voted to direct staff to come up with a precise proposal detailing the exact authority that would be vested to administration with regard to hiring, renewal of contracts and employee travel. It is expected to come back to the Board for approval before the end of October.
In related news, the Board has hired a new County Finance Director, Terry Krukemyer. The previous Finance Director resigned during the height of the County’s fiscal crisis earlier this year.