County officials mull hiring process

Consistency seen as a way to avoid costly lawsuits

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David Schwerin of Moffat Insurance advised Moffat County elected officials Tuesday to develop a centralized system of dealing with personnel issues.

If they don't, he said, it could cost the county money in future lawsuits.

"It's imperative that the county have consistency within these policies," he said. "With all the federal and state mandates it's important that you have the expertise and a central person to handle those issues."

Schwerin made the recommendation during a monthly luncheon of all elected county officials, including the commissioners, clerk and recorder, sheriff, assessor and treasurer.

The group began discussions on developing a hiring policy that could be used by all county departments in a February meeting.

Each elected official agreed that there was a need for a policy that addressed employee conflicts, and their ability to approach the human resources director.

Right now, only employees who work under the Moffat County commissioners have access to the human resources department. More than 50 county employees, who are employed by elected officials other than the commissioners, are impacted by the lack of consistency in the human resources department for all county offices.

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele was frustrated at the county's lack of progress since its first discussion on the issue.

"We need to get this to roll," Steele said. "We're at the same place we were at the first meeting."

Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton agreed, saying that while all departments differ, an across-the-board policy could be adopted to establish consistency and fairness throughout county departments.

The officials have urged Moffat County Human Resources Director Tom Skelding to develop a plan.

While Skelding said officials should work with the human resources department when hiring employees, he said the department should not be charged with developing the hiring process, and disagreed with the idea of a countywide hiring policy.

"It all needs to run through one channel," Skelding said. "Human resources is not the authority. It does not tell you whom to hire. It is the funnel to go through. Don't tie your hands so you're doing it the same for everyone."

But Steele told Skelding that he disagreed, saying consistency is needed throughout the county on personnel issues.

"You hired me to do human resources and now you want to tie my hands," Skelding said. "That makes no sense at all."

Skelding requested an administrative session to discuss the issue further with the commissioners.

He said this issue also ties into an equal opportunity employment plan he is in the process of developing so the county can be eligible for federal grants, which require documentation explaining how the county operates as an equal opportunity employer.

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said the county has taken an important step in creating a human resources department. Now it needs to make sure it gets its procedures in place so it can avoid lawsuits such as the $2 million suit the county lost in 1998.

The suit was the result of sexual harassment charges filed against former Moffat County Sheriff Jeff Corriveau.

"We're trying to figure out what the best mechanism for this is," Raftopoulos said. "We just came out of a horrific lawsuit because this was not in place."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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