Team building and morale | Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County

Concerned voter asks Karen Paz Dominguez

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Team building and morale

What is your management style? There has been reports and hearsay of micromanaging, abrupt policy changes, and emotional outbursts within your office. Please share your take on what it’s like to be your boss.

— Concerned voter


Karen Paz Dominguez

I would describe my management style as collaborative. I see my role as being one that serves the staff and I do not believe in a hierarchical structure of management.  I take responsibility for my department, as the buck stops with me; but my management style works precisely because I rely on the experience, expertise, and wisdom of everyone on my team.  I  facilitate.  I provide support. I represent the team to the public and to the Board, but the office is not “mine” as the team is its essence.  The A-C office is not an extension of me but rather an extension of the collective vision of the staff within. 


In my model, everyone in the A-C department has access to the same information so that we stay on the same page and are able to coordinate.  In my office, the A-C staff enjoy independence.  I try to ensure that they have the necessary tools and resources.  I provide assistance as they need it without micromanaging and I provide training, either in-person or online.


When we embark on a change of policy or procedure, I first solicit input from my team.  On the rare occasions I have implemented changes immediately without the time for input, it has been to address urgent concerns.  For example, when the new payroll system crashed last fall due to the CAO’s impatience in implementing a program integration, without testing it, against the software company’s recommendations as well as my own.  Very quickly and without facts, a certain Board member sought to place the blame on my office through a public Facebook post. Because of these misinforming public comments and sloppy news reporting of the event, there are some in the public who still blame my office for the Payroll system failure.  The crash had nothing to do with my office but my office had everything to do with solving the problem.  I was not there for photo opportunities; I was in the trenches with the A-C staff. I developed a contingency plan to ensure that county employees were paid. We organized an emergency manual distribution of paychecks out of the Accounts Payable module while simultaneously repairing the Payroll module. In this case, I had to make an emergency change to the process for paying employees without full input from A-C staff, but they trusted my leadership and worked with me to implement it.


Sometimes the changes we implement come at the direction of higher authorities.  The IRS changes its guidelines annually.  The State Controller changes its guidelines quarterly.   The Board of Supervisors changes policy or throws new programs or funding issues at us every Tuesday.  So sometimes we have to change policies or procedures quickly to address a situation, and that can result in some unavoidable stress to other departments.  Still, when there is opportunity, I solicit input from A-C staff and the other departments.


Before the Board, State, or IRS change their laws and guidelines, they solicit public input. There’s plenty of opportunity before a policy has changed for members of the public or representatives of other departments to be heard. That is the time when the other departments can influence policy and voice their opposition or concerns. But once a new law has been passed, it is the Auditor-Controller’s responsibility to enforce or implement it.  At that point, it’s too late to alter the course as it is not in the Auditor-Controller’s power to change the rules.  Yet some department heads and a certain Supervisor will essentially blame the messenger and scream at us about the rules.  Yes, literally scream.


Yes, we have stressful moments. The pandemic. The screaming Supervisor.  Tension with other departments when we do our job and audit them. The Board’s publicized derision of the staff’s work.  Misleading media coverage.  Vapors coming out of the vents in our office, which pose health hazards to staff. A rogue mouse wandering in the broken light fixtures above our heads. The list is long.  


I provide support to staff who have been stressed.  There are resources available and we make use of them. The A-C Office’s work is not easy.  However, we are a close-knit team who work together toward a shared goal for the benefit of the public and it is very rewarding to us all.    


Please contact me and I would be happy to address any of the rumors you have heard and your concerns. My website is and my campaign e-mail is


To see what A-C staff have to say, please watch this video: