Environmental services director job description altered

County probes why changes made to website listing of duties for post held by Benton

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Document

Previous Environmental Services Director job description

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Document

Current Enviromental Services Director job description

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Document

Email chain between Clark County Commissioner David Madore and former county administrator Bill Barron

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Some changes in job description

Several of the changes to an updated job description are similar to recommendations sent in an email from Clark County Commissioner David Madore to former Clark County Administrator Bill Barron in March.

Among the changes are:

• In the section “Job Purpose and Summary,” the new description adds the lines “while championing practical application of state law in granting development permits, and pioneering creative and innovative solutions that balance priorities” and “builds and trains teams committed to customer service in compliance with public regulations.”

• In the section “Key Performance Indicators,” the new description removes the line “strong leadership in transitioning staff from multiple units into a new cohesive, synergistic organization.”

• In the section “Qualifications,” the line “directing complex environmental services functions and services, or related operations” is replaced with the line “directing a complex organization with multiple functions and services.”

• In the section “Qualifications,” the line “and a demonstrated ability to lead the integration of organizational subunits into a newly formed department” is replaced with the line “and strong leadership success in both government operations and private business management.”

The job description for Clark County environmental services director — the position state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, was hired to May 1 — was altered on Clark County’s website in September, and county officials are currently working to figure out why that occurred.

The changed job description came to the attention of Democratic Commissioner Steve Stuart last week when a county resident queried the county on why the changes had been made.

Stuart said he’s looked into the matter and said former County Administrator Bill Barron requested the changes be made in his final weeks before his Sept. 10 retirement.

Stuart said he asked Barron on Monday why he made the request for the changes, but that Barron told him he couldn’t recall the reason.

Stuart said he intends to take the current job description to the board to “be clear if the updated job description is what the board expects.”

County Administrator Mark McCauley said he has supplied county Human Resources Director Francine Reis with information on when the job description was discussed by commissioners. He said Reis is going back through the minutes to see if commissioners voted on the matter.

McCauley is also reviewing county policy to determine if the county administrator can unilaterally make changes to job descriptions.

A message left for Barron went unreturned as of Monday night.

Disagreements

The job description for the position has been one of the key talking points for Republican Commissioner David Madore since he and fellow Republican Commissioner Tom Mielke hired Benton to the director role during a May 1 board time meeting.

The hiring prompted a backlash from some members of the community who declared the appointment was cronyism.

Madore first blamed the hostile response on people’s not understanding commissioners had changed the job description before the May 1 meeting — an assertion that Stuart has said is incorrect and Mielke has said he does not recall.

Madore has used a March 17 email to Barron as a reference to the job description’s being changed. In the email, he recommends changes to the description, some of which resemble the new job description on the county’s website. Barron responded, telling Madore the recommendations are an “excellent description of the attributes we need.”

Madore then responded: “I am glad to hear of your agreement. My subject would have been better titled: Qualifications, rather than Job Description. I look forward to working with you on this.”

A message left for Madore went unreturned as of Monday night.

The updated document reflects within the text that it was revised after the May 1 meeting, on May 21. However, the properties of the file indicate the document was created on Sept. 13, three days after Barron retired.

In October, Madore raised the issue again in an apology he posted to his Facebook page. In it he states again that the public received the wrong job description at the time of Benton’s hire, and uses the March email he sent to Barron as a reference.

Madore later deleted the Facebook post, saying on the page he was instructed to do so by the county’s legal counsel as the county has been put on notice that it may be sued for violating hiring processes with the appointment of Benton.

October discussion

But before the post was deleted, commissioners discussed the topic at an Oct. 16 board time meeting.

Here is a portion of that discussion:

Stuart: Are we agreed that there was never a change to the job description that was agreed upon by this board?

Mielke: I seem to recall that we did make, and there was very, very small changes, only a few words. And then we gave direction to Bill to draft it back to us. So we’d accepted something and Bill was supposed to come back and draft it to us.

Madore: This is as far as it got. Then we had our meltdown meeting. So this is all we have.

Stuart: But that’s as far as it got, was a draft. There was never a changed job description. Are we …

Mielke: Yeah, I think I recall something like that.

Stuart: OK.

Madore: Well, wait a minute.

Mielke: I think what it was, later on, you said, “Oh my goodness, it was never changed, I want to change it now.” And I said, “Oh my God, don’t go change it now, we’re already getting beat up for something that we really didn’t do, so why would you want to go back and change it now and renew the fight?”

Later in the same Oct. 16 discussion, Stuart asks Madore if he understands the board never changed the job description.

“An email between you and Bill didn’t change the job description,” Stuart said. “Because it couldn’t. Right? Please, tell me you understand that you can’t email him and change a job description for one of our directors without the board actually discussing it.”

Madore tells Stuart that the issue is “not about a changed job description.”

Stuart then responds, “but it has been for you. You keep saying that we changed the job description.”

The board can next discuss the matter at 2 p.m. Wednesday at its weekly board time discussion.