In the second day of the new year, Grand County officials moved to bend the rules and suspend county policy in hiring a new deputy attorney.
Officials’ reports, community activity updates, planning, public comments and new employee hiring were among the items of top discussion at the first Grand County Council meeting in 2019 on Jan. 2.
In general business, council unanimously approved boosting the entry-level pay grade for an incoming deputy county attorney.
In the past, the county has not had a deputy county attorney and work was contracted to outside legal counsel.
Documents filed with the council state that during the application and interview process for hiring a deputy county attorney, “the county attorney determined that the grade 18 classification limits her ability to hire a deputy county attorney with the necessary education and experience.”
Grand County Clerk Chris Baird presented the agenda item to council for Christina Sloan, attorney for Grand County. Sloan requested that the grade be increased from grade 18, step one, $69,430 to grade 20, step four.
For the county’s deputy attorney position, the council had approved a compensation package line item on Dec. 18 for the grade 20 pay at $123,675, of which $78,152 is salary.
To hire a new deputy county attorney — officials did not reveal the name of the potential new employee, only saying that interviews had been completed in December — at a higher pay grade requires council to suspend policy under the Grand County Employee Handbook.
Compensation for county employees is set according to each position’s classification on the step and grade chart. All employees are hired at an entry-level compensation and progress through the salary range based upon performance. That is, unless the council suspends policy and gives a department head the discretion to offer “a competitive compensation package to a new employee.”
Baird said that in authorizing the increase to the deputy county attorney’s pay grade, there would be no change to the “bottom line” of the budge, as about $6,000 in funds spent previously on contracting the work to outside counsel would be moved to the salary and pay line.
The contracted legal work “has really grown,” Baird said.
“The county council is the only body that had the power to suspend the policy in the handbook, so I think you have to suspend policy to allow this person to be hired on a step higher to what their experience is,” Baird said.
Grand County Council member Mary McGann made the motion to suspend policy and it was seconded by Curtis Wells. The motion passed unanimously.
Baird said on Jan. 9 that the council always has the authority to suspend policy, and in this case the suspension of policy had more to do with changing the step of the pay rather the grade, which council can change without suspending policy.
“It happens sometimes,” Baird said. “Probably a handful of time a year, it comes up.”
NEW YEAR, NEW FACES
The council’s meeting kicked off with the announcement that council member Evan Clapper is the new council chair, with Terry Morse filling the role of vice chair. The two take the places of former chair McGann and vice chair Wells. As Clapper assumed the center seat in the semicircle of council members, he said it would take some time for him to get used to the new position. Council members Greg Halliday and Jaylyn Hawks were also in attendance. Council member Rory Paxman was absent.
Among the council members who gave individual reports, Halliday updated the community with the progress being made with the Museum of Moab’s renovation.
“All of the displays will be on the main floor,” Halliday said. The museum will not be retrofitted with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant devices to be able to go to the second floor. “Everything that the public will access will be on the main floor. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to put in an automatic door.”
Overall, Halliday said the renovation process is “going along pretty well.”
McGann reported that the county has successfully hired a new Grand County Solid Waste Special Service District manager, who will start on Jan. 28.
Another new hire is that of Tara Collins, a part-time office assistant who will be attending council meetings. Grand County Council Administrator Ruth Dillon said Collins has “a strong background, is an attorney and loves research and writing.”
COUNCIL CRITICIZED BY JACKSON
When it came time for opening the floor to comments from the public, former council member Lynn Jackson took to the podium with a prepared statement in which he lambasted the council with comments on its recent decision to raise the pay for council members.
Jackson said it’s no secret he wants to see the council changed. As one of the citizen petitioners in support of House Bill 224, a new law pushing Grand County to change its form of government by 2020, Jackson said a seven-person study committee will eventually “determine what a reasonable level of income is for the council.”
When asked after the meeting if he felt satisfied with how the meeting turned out, Jackson said, “Procedures for council are to not engage in that forum … so I wasn’t surprised there was no response from them and wasn’t expecting one.”
New hires discussed at county meeting
“The county council is the only body that had the power to suspend the policy in the handbook, so I think you have to suspend policy to allow this person to be hired on a step higher to what their experience is.”