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Library personnel seek agreement

Memo would give employees access to county's Human Resources Department

Josh Nichols

The Moffat County Library Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting sometime next week to consider adopting a memorandum of understanding between it and the Moffat County Human Resources Department.

The agreement will give library employees access to the services of the Moffat County Human Resources Department to assist in settling employees’ disputes, disagreements and conflicts.

There are 22 employees in the three branches of the Moffat County Library system, including facilities in Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur.

The library board first tried to get an agreement with the county in 2001, which the commissioners rejected.

But the commissioners recently approved a new revised agreement, and it has now been passed back to the library board for approval.

Those on the county and library side hope the agreement can help avoid situations like the one that occurred at a Board of Trustees meeting in July.

According to minutes from the July 15 Library Board meeting, Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton came before the library board and requested an executive session to discuss complaints expressed to him from library employees.

Board Chairman Tim Jantz, who has since resigned from the board, asked Hampton if employee names would be discussed.

Hampton said they would not.

Library Director Donna Watkins then asked if the concerns were directed at her to which Hampton answered yes.

Watkins requested that the discussion be held in an open session, to which the board agreed.

Hampton said five library employees contacted the Moffat County Commission, adding that the commission designated him to come before the library board.

Hampton distributed to the board typed notes that had been taken in discussions with the library employees.

Complaints in the letters that Hampton read accused Watkins of telling employees that they are “incompetent,” and that she had accused employees of stealing. The letters indicated that Watkins had caused so much stress on those who work under her that they often go home sick. One complaint stated that an employee had been diagnosed as suffering from prolonged stress.

While Watkins admits to running a tight ship, she said Wednesday many of the allegations cast in the complaints that Hampton read at the meeting were blown out of proportion, and said many inaccurate statements were made.

One employee stated that 11 full-time employees have left in the last four years.

Watkins said the statement is inaccurate, and said eight employees have left during her 4 1/2 year tenure.

Three of those employees were terminated, one retired and four left for “personal reasons” that included other jobs, she said.

In one of the complaints Hampton read, an unidentified employee stated that the employee had approached the commission with concerns because the employee thought the library board personnel committee could not be approached because committee members are “too closely linked to the director,” according to the minutes of the meeting.

To this Chairman Jantz interrupted Hampton stating that the library board has always been accessible.

Later in the meeting, board member Linda Booker said she thought it was an “unfair statement” that board members are unapproachable.

Booker then said board members are approachable and said there is a protocol in which employees may go to the board chair as well as the director if they have concerns.

Watkins said Wednesday that she thought the employees took the wrong approach to dealing with the situation.

“Those employees disregarded three levels of supervision,” Watkins said. “Passing the supervisor, director and board and going straight to the commissioners is not going to solve the problem and that’s what happened.”

But both sides hope by approving the Human Resources Department agreement, a neutral county human resources director can aid library employees and supervisors in their disputes.

At a September commission meeting, Hampton said the agreement proposed a year ago by the library board was four pages and difficult to understand.The county then came back with a one-paragraph agreement, which the library board unanimously rejected.

Library board member Linda Booker was present at the September commission meeting, and said going from a four-page agreement to a one-paragraph agreement seemed inadequate to the board, and said the board wanted to make sure the agreement said enough.

Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson assured the library board members that the agreement was not intended to be a grievance procedure.

“As employees of Moffat County these people should be given the same opportunities as other

county employees when dealing with an issue that comes before them,” Dickinson said at the meeting.

“From my perspective, it would be unfortunate for the library not to utilize the services of our human resources director who we already pay for.”

Library board members and representatives at the meeting suggested a sentence be added to the agreement stating that it is not a grievance procedure.

The sentence added to the agreement and approved by the commissioners read:

“Nothing in this Memorandum of Understanding shall be construed to alter the at-will employment status of employees or to provide for the establishment of a grievance procedure.”

Booker said Wednesday the library board did not vote on approving the agreement at its last board meeting because the board only has four members, and statute recommends five be present for a vote.

“We didn’t feel comfortable making that decision with only four board members,” she said.

Two library board members, Gary Loyd and Chairman Tim Jantz have resigned since the July meeting.

Booker said a new board member has been named, and said the board will hold a special meeting sometime next week to discuss adoption of the agreement After the September commissioners’ meeting, library

board member Dave Longwell said he thought adoption of an

agreement would be beneficial for everyone.

“I think this is certainly a good step to get what we both desire,”

he said.


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