The White Pine County Commission held its commission meeting on Wednesday, March 14.
One agenda item in particular that caused some contention between the commissioners was an agenda item placed on the agenda by Commissioner Steve Stork for discussion on public policy, best practices, purposes, application and effectiveness of White Pine County Fire Protection District and White Pine County job descriptons and the White Pine County Personnel Policy generally, to also include discussion on the purpose of the Human Resources Director position and duties, appointed department head/chiefs position and duties and the role of the Fire District Commissioners/County Commissioners in oversight, accountability and implement of said duties as fiduciaries to the public.
Stork spoke first explaining the reason he put this item on the agenda was that after the last meeting he went away somewhat confused on what the function of this board is, and so he thought it was important to have a public discussion about the importance of their job descriptions and what is the importance of it, in addition to what the purpose of the board was.
Stork said, “Job descriptions are not followed, or not met, policy is not followed. At what point does it become a responsibility of this board to provide oversight and accountability?”
Commission Chairman Richard Howe noted they should be relying on the department heads when there is an issue, and utilize the chain of command.
Stork posed a hypothetical question, “Lets assume we had a job description and that description laid out minimum standards for the position, then we hire a person for the position, the person hired, didn’t meet the minimum qualifications for the job that was done knowingly by the department head and with the human resources director.
“Would it then be appropriate for them to come before this board to provide oversight to ensure policies are being involved and job descriptions are being met?”
Commissioner Gary Perea noted that the reason the fire district was formed in the first place was because the state wasn’t doing their job, the division of forestry. He also noted that there had been some hurdles setting up the fire district.
District Attorney Mike Wheable said, “We just veered off the agenda, we need to focus on the agenda item.”
Perea said, “Fortunately to be able to follow through with policies and job descriptions, money is a factor. This board has been divided since inception of the Fire District.”
Howe went on to discuss some of the issues of the difficulty in filling some position. “If we lose two-three fireman because they don’t have a certain certification or their not quite trained in this or that, we stand a chance of losing qualified people that we have in place because they haven’t been able to get certified. We need to use a little common sense instead of just legal and say well, ‘Johnny can’t get this til july, and he’s applied and he’s working towards it.’”
Stork pressed on with the meeting stressing that he was just trying to find out what the ground rules were because the carpet keeps getting pulled out from under him.
“Seems like we got rules but we don’t want to follow them, we got policy and we want to set the policies ahead. I’m at a loss,” Stork said.
Perea went on to talk about there being a time when all of these type of services were manned with volunteers and they didn’t have any paid staff.
“That was at a time when the public expectation was when you called for a fire truck or ambulance, it was going to be a 15-20 minute wait, but what they want now or what their demanding is they want help in five minutes and that costs money,” Perea said.
Appearing frustrated, Stork said, “Lets talk about a real situation, I just asked the fire chief, it was my understanding he hired a temporary employee. He said he had. I asked him what the circumstances were. It hadn’t come before this board, the county policy says it needs to come before this board, and it seems like were always setting aside rules for one department and exceptions for job descriptions, and job performance, and making accommodations that were not doing for others.”
Stork took the policy packet dropping it down in front of Howe saying, “This is our policies I just want to know what part of them we follow and what part of we don’t I’m just looking for some direction.”
Commissioner Shane Bybee said, “I think the point here especially when it comes to hiring, if you are hiring for temporary or otherwise,and you don’t have a candidate that meets the minimum requirements, that needs to be made clear to the board, we’re answerable to the public if were going to be settling for someone who doesn’t meet the minimum standards of a job description it needs to be brought here and the reasons of why we are making that decision, and give the reasons were making that exception.”
Howe said they need to adhere to that but that they also needed to allow the department heads some flexibility on who is good and who is not. Basically giving the ability to give the department heads to pick and choose he noted.
Stork said, “The last meeting it was assumed that this hadn’t been brought to a department head, that this hadn’t been brought to and HR person, like in my hypothetical folks, no action has been taken, that’s why I brought it before this board.”
“Does anyone have anything else to add? This is getting a little testy, we need to bring this back, but let’s do it through the proper channels,” Howe said.
Stork interrupted Howe by saying, “You’re assuming again that proper channels were followed. They weren’t followed I’m telling you.”
Bybee said, “We’re sweeping it under the rug again, it’s what were getting good at.”