11:51 a.m.: OK, it’s finally through! They’re going to split the department and debate Girard’s future with the county at a later date. And, again — behind closed doors.

11:49 a.m.: Cripes.

11:43 a.m.: Lovelace’s motion shut down over the the timeline thing. Smith comes back and shoots for a mid-May deadline.

11:37 a.m.: This squabbling over the schedule of the split might literally go on forever.

11:37 a.m.: A May deadline has been floated. Lovelace says that to do it at the turn of the fiscal year would make things so much easier, bureaucratically, and a couple of weeks wouldn’t make any difference, really.

11:35 a.m.: (Much much much more I-dotting and T-crossing over dates.)

11:33 a.m.: Lovelace protests that the board could actually move more quickly if it wishes. July 1 would be a deadline.

11:32 a.m.: Smith says he’s more or less on board, but the fiscal year — four months away — is too far away. Sundberg agrees. The whole reason we’re doing this is to address serious problems in the department.

11:31 a.m.: OK, Lovelace says. “Natural” is out.

11:31 a.m.: Clendenen seconds, but requests that Lovelace remove the “natural.”

11:30 a.m.: Lovelace steps in to make the motion himself. Push the dates back to make the split happen at the beginning of the fiscal year. Moves that the new economic development director be restyled as the “director of economic & natural resource development,” adding a word to the staff recommendation.

11:27 a.m.: The decision is already made, essentially — they’re going to split the department and battle it out over Girard’s future employment later on, behind closed doors — but there’s a mountain of relatively inconsequential scheduling matters being handled now and into the immediate future.

11:25 a.m.: Sundberg restates his position. Asks if that’s what Smith is attending. Smith concurs, in so many words. No one makes a motion. PSH seeks to confirm what it is they wish to do — approve the split, but schedule staffing matters to be discussed in later closed session? Also says that they seem to want more time, but no one is mentioning a date yet.

11:22 a.m.: We are in the inevitable long-winded phase of the proceedings now. Smith says he “is good” with the idea of taking out the names and slowing down the process a bit. 

11:19 a.m.: Bass seeks to clarify: Sundberg wants to approve the job descriptions but keep back the personnel appointments — Girard — for a later date? Sundberg agrees. That is what he wants to do.

11:18 a.m.: Smith-Hanes, using a lot of words, agrees.

11:17 a.m.: Sundberg again says that he doesn’t envision any problems with dividing the department. Who goes where? It’ll all fall into place. Not a big deal. 

11:16 a.m.: Sundberg. Breaking this into two is easy, and figuring out what falls where — i.e., the GIS people — is not that big a problem. The “heartburn” comes from the personnel question he talked about earlier: How are people hired for these new jobs? Smith-Hanes tells the board that he’s at the board’s command — if they’d like more detail on job descriptions, etc. — or whatever — he will do his best to get it done.

11:11 a.m.: Lovelace says the staff recommendations are a good way forward. If we change it up any, we’re kind of starting over. “My greatest concern is that the other questions that need to be resolved require more time,” he says. Perhaps we need to slow this all down? Tie it to the fiscal year?

11:10 a.m.: Lovelace: There’s a bunch of stuff we’re trying to do with this. The department has grown a lot over the last few years. An alternative? We could promote more “division heads” within the department as it exists, along the lines of Health and Human Services, but that would probably be more expensive yet. Acknowledges that complaints about the responsiveness of planning & building to the public is driving the bus, here.

11:06 a.m.: Public comment closed. Back to the board. Clendenen tries again with his thrust about the necessity of employees in both new units to be able to “work across budget units.” Then he says that the board can always do nothing right now; it could go back and start over if it’s not satisfied.

11:03 a.m.: The well-meaning Richard Tollefson speaks for a while.

11:02 a.m.: County Clerk Recorder Carolyn Crnich. The county clerk was “trifurcated” several years ago, so you might want to look at how that went. But: “Not to my satisfaction have the new departments been defined adequately to determine what the actual structure of those department might be.” Where will the GIS division go? She’s not sure, and she relies on GIS for her work as clerk-recorder.

10:58 a.m.: Planning Commissioner Ralph Faust. Says he’s not here to talk about reorganization. That’s the board’s thing. Personnel issues are for closed sessions. But who is the board thinking about for planning and building? “This is not a department that will run itself,” he says. 

10:57 a.m.: Penny Elsebusch. Departmental confusion. Chain of command issues. Who will a natural resources person work for? Will he have two bosses? Economic development — you’re going to create a whole new department head for seven employees?

10:54 a.m.: “I thank Supervisor Bass for recognizing that this should not have been on the consent calendar, because it’s not routine at all,” Elsebusch says. He protests the splitting of the department on financial grounds. If Health and Human Services were blowing it, would you split the department? No, you’d fire the director. “My comments about a backroom deal to save Girard’s job…” He trails off and leaves.

10:52 a.m.: Oh God, public comment. David Elsebusch on the mic.

10:52 a.m.: County Counsel Wendy Chaitin informs the board that it may, if it wishes, approve the reorganization but schedule the part about personnel for closed sessions down the road. Sundberg says that this is exactly what he thought was going to happen. 

10:50 a.m.: Lovelace: “If the result of reorganization is doing away with a person, an employee, that is a personnel issue. We can’t handle a personnel issue through an organizational issue.” Reiterates that he believes it is important to separate those two things.

10:47 a.m.: Board Chair Virginia Bass. This is the logical conclusion of what the board directed staff to do, but she remembers asking for a period of recruitment. “The person that is suggested could be the very best candidate. But there is a perceptual issue” that this restructuring isn’t happening the way people thought it would.

10:45 a.m.: Sundberg back on. “The angst I have is appointing someone to that new position right off the bat,” rather than taking applications and finding candidates. “The turmoil and the divisiveness and everything else that got is here is what makes me uncomfortable about putting someone in there.” It was on consent calendar, Sundberg says — that might lead to the impression that people were trying to slide it through.

10:42 a.m.: In response to certain public questions, the thrust of which he has not yet elaborated, Supervisor Mark Lovelace assures the public that these are “organizational” and “structural” issues. Now he elaborates, though — some have considered that this is a “personnel” issue, which, Lovelace says, has a totally different process. (This, presumably, in response to those who would wish to jettison Girard entirely.)

10:39 a.m.: Smith continues to push an “interim” appointment to the new positions rather than permanent ones. Smith-Hanes says that all department heads are “interim,” in a way, since they are at-will employees.

10:38 a.m.: Are these interim positions being created, Smith asks? PS-H: No, they are permanent. Smith: But perhaps we could appoint people to them on an interim basis? 

10:36 a.m.: Supervisor Jimmy Smith asks about potential ways to save costs. [Sorry, was taken away for a moment and missed most of what he said.

10:35 a.m.: “I was surprised when I read that we were automatically transfering Mr. Girard to ecnomic development,” Sundberg continues. But he and PS-H agree that there is little precedent for the splitting of departments. Sundberg wonders why you wouldn’t seek candidates for both job.

10:33 a.m.: Supervisor Ryan Sundberg. “The system as is is not working,” he says. He wonders what the costs to the county was before the departments were merged back in 1999. Smith-Hanes says that it’s hard to compare since there was only one economic development person in those pre-Headwaters Fund days, and no natural resources division withing planning.

10:30 a.m.: The Taxpayers’ League has questioned this move. Two salaries are more expensive than one, Clendenen concedes. But this is the direction the board chose to take long ago, and it will likely lead to more efficiency. “I’m hoping that we’ll have a cost savings by the fact that there’s better throughput from the community on planning projects, and that it operates more efficiently,” Clendenen says.

10:28 a.m.: Supervisor Clif Clendenen takes the floor. Suggests bumping back the split date to the end of April or beginning of May in order to wrap up the general plan update. Wants language in the job description for the new jobs that would allow these employees to “work across budget divisions.”

10:24 a.m.: Economic development is “a logical place to put him,” says P. S-H. If the board does not decide to do that, it will “face some interesting quandaries.”

10:23 a.m.: Smith-Hanes lays out the options: The board can approve the staff report as is. It could fiddle with the timeline for the split. It could change the job descriptions somewhat (though he discourages that). It could simply reject everything and leave things as they are. Or they could change the staff’s position that Girard should get automatically placed in the economic development position. 

10:21 a.m.: Another question from the board, says Smith-Hanes, concerns timing. Why split the department effective April 1? Because, says Smith-Hanes, the planning department will be done with the general plan by then. (Did I hear that right? “Done with most of it, perhaps?)

10:19 a.m.: Smith-Hanes tells the board that there are two factors at play — the pay range that the county sets for a position, and the pay range it sets for a person. People who have worked for the county for a long while get bumps for the longevity of their service. Kirk Girard gets that boost under the staff’s plan, so he would get a higher salary than the base pay for the position. 

10:16 a.m.: See that staff report here.

UPDATE, 10:15 a.m.: County Administrative Officer Philip Smith-Hanes tells the board that he has received questions about how the salaries for the two new positions — Director of Planning & Building, Director of Economic & Resource Development, were determined in the staff report on the item.


The motion to split the department in two and relegate Community Development Services Director Kirk Girard to economic development matters was pulled off the consent calendar this morning, so there’s gonna be some debate and dispute. Follow along.