Commissioner Madore will be allowed to hire private assistant

Board finds consensus on draft of terms, conditions

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: February 6, 2013, 7:56 PM

 

Clark County commissioners will be allowed to hire private staff, paid for out of their own pocket, to assist with their work in county offices.

Commissioners hashed through a number of concerns over hiring private staff Wednesday afternoon during a public meeting of the board. Among the worries discussed: What access would a private employee have to county equipment and resources? How would a private assistant interact with public staff, and how would public records be kept?

In the end, commissioners found a consensus on a draft of terms and conditions for such a hire, and Commissioner Steve Stuart, a Democrat, told Republican Commissioner David Madore “you have three votes.”

The issue was sparked two weeks ago when newly elected Madore hired Anna Miller, his former campaign manager, to work as his executive assistant. Madore promised during the campaign to bring in his own staff and pay for the hires out of his own pocket. Madore has long been a successful business executive; his firm, US Digital, makes motion-control devices.

Miller said she has experience as an executive assistant, working for years in that capacity for an international financial firm. Miller is also known for her involvement in the Clark County Republican Party over the past 15 years.

Stuart originally said he had a concern of politicizing an apolitical office by adding a well-known county politico. Madore countered that shouldn’t have a bearing on the hiring. This week, the two left that topic alone and the discussion rose to a broader policy issue.

Bronson Potter, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor, said the bottom line was that Madore could make such a hire, but suggested commissioners establish basic rules for private employees.

Because she won’t be paid by the government, Miller won’t be considered a county employee. Potter suggested that Madore and Miller acknowledge that fact in writing so the county is not liable for certain employment requirements.

Miller’s work at the county will be subject to public records requests, and she won’t be privy to confidential information such as employment and legal issues.

She also won’t be joining the county employees’ union, and won’t be allowed to give orders to county staff.

Commissioners had a brief back-and-forth on whether Miller would be allowed to use county resources.

“If I wanted to be hypertechnical, I would say no,” Potter said of a task as simple as Miller using the copying machine. Potter originally suggested that private staff have the same amount of access to equipment as any other member of the public. But he noted it was a policy issue the commissioners could determine on their own.

Madore made the point that Miller was hired to assist him in his work for the county, and that he needed her to access equipment in the same capacity he could.

“There are restrictions in here that would tie her hands unnecessarily,” Madore said. “I want to find the balance.”

Madore added that he would “need to be able to have my helper interface with (county staff), to exchange information” in a way that could assist him in basic research.

Stuart and Commissioner Tom Mielke agreed to loosen the restrictions suggested in the draft rules, allowing for a hire such as Miller to access copy machines and computers. Both commissioners added that some areas, such as access to shared hard drives, might be off-limits but deferred specifics to a final draft.

The conversation took roughly an hour to complete. At one point, Madore noted the time, saying on top of the time spent on the issue last week the commissioners needed to pick up the pace and get back to county business.

At that point Stuart countered that this was a process that required careful thought, so “the public knows the use of their resources are being done in the right way.”

Mielke agreed, saying “sideboards” on such a hire are critical.

Stuart also said he believes there will be some “confusion” that may arise as part of the new dynamic in the office, and asked that commissioners address any concerns at future meetings.

Potter must still present the board with a final copy of the rules, but Stuart said Madore could invite Miller back to the office immediately as all three commissioners were in agreement on the regulations.

When asked if Miller would return to work for him today, Madore said, “I hope so.”


Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov;erik.hidle@columbian.com.