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March 10, 2010     Chester Progressive
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March 10, 2010
 

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Ii/ vveclnesaay, Ivlarcn IU, ZUIU Chester Progressive Auditor's office takes on safety, risk duties Joshua Sebold Staff Writer jsebold@plumasnews.com The Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved the transfer of duties of the safety officer and risk manager from the county administrative of- fice to the auditor/controller department at a Tuesday, March 2, meeting. The move resulted in $27,000 moving from the CAO to the auditor's office, as those funds were attached to the risk man- agement budget. A .75 position will also be- come a full-time position be- cause of the change, and sev- eral other job descriptions in the auditor's office will be ex- panded, but no additional pay will be given to Auditor Shawn Montgomery or her staff, aside from the expanded position. Despite the added work and to the amazement of the super- visors, Montgomery told them, "I'm pretty excited about it. I want to let you guys know that." Montgomery said part of the change resulted from the county's decision to join the Trindel Insurance Fund, which requires all 10 of the counties in the pool to have safety officers. Montgomery said half of the expanded posi- tion would be allocated to be- ing the safety officer and the other half would be spent do- ing work for the auditor's of- fice. She added the position would probably be 100 percent dedicated to the safety officer side at first, while the safety program was being set up. The auditor also said the county could get up to $40,000 of its premiums back from Trindel if it fulfilled all the re- quirements of the pool's safety program. She said the county's premi- ums were the same as before, so there would be a savings if it earned the $40,000 back. Montgomery also told the board the county would get $20,000 back if it got a 50 per- cent score from Trindel, and the county would have two years to try to get a 100 per- cent score and get all the mon- ey back. Addressing the $27,000 at- tached to the risk manage- ment budget, she added, "I don't see using all of that. I will work closely with Jack on what I can and can't use, but whatever I don't use, of course, is general fund. It will go back to the general fund budget." She also said her depart- ment would share a vehicle with the district attorney's of- fice so the safety officer could travel to other county depart- ments. Montgomery told the board there were other advantages to working with Trindel. The company would pay for travel when she and the safety offi- cer went to get training. She also said Trindel had in- fluence with the California State Association of Counties Excess Insurance Authority, an insurance pool the county belongs to that is composed of counties and local govern- ment entities like cities and service districts. "There's even complaints a lot from some of the bigger counties that say 'you know everything is being catered to these small counties' because we have in essence 10 votes to their one, because we try to come to a consensus at the Trindel meetings on what is best for our counties." Supervisor Lori Simpson asked who would handle workers' compensation is- sues. - Montgomery said that func- tion would be housed in her department and handled by the same employees who work on county payroll, but her em- ployees would work closely with the human resources de- partment. Montgomery said she would try to keep risk management and safety officer functions as separate from auditor func- tions as possible, but many counties in Trindel had this arrangement, with one depart- ment handling both. Commenting on that separa- tion she said, "I, of course, am more interested in saving county money and maybe only seeing black and white, and the safety officer cannot. The safety officer needs to see em- ployees. "The employee needs to feel comfortable going to someone who's on their side and they don't always see the auditor as being on their side, and we can't have that if we're going to have an effective program." At that point, Simpson asked whether employees would go directly to the safety officer with concerns if they haven't talked to their depart- ment heads. Montgomery said she thought department heads should get a chance to address an issue first and the first thing her officer should ask an employee is whether the de- partment head was aware of an issue. The auditor said, "in the de- partment heads' defense," she thought many times they just weren't aware of an issue and weren't actively ignoring it. Supervisor Terry Swofford said he'd heard complaints from employees about having to travel out of their areas to attend safety meetings in the past. Montgomery said her de- partment was getting to share the vehicle with the DA for ex- actly that reason, so the safety officer could travel instead of sending whole department full of personnel from one side of the county to another. 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The auditor said Trindel had safety topics and pro- grams for each department and people would get informa- tion that would actually apply to their jobs. Supervisor Ole Olsen asked whether the risk management function would be attached to the auditor's office perma- nently and whether people running for auditor would have to demonstrate knowl- edge of risk management. Montgomery said the board could reorganize the depart- ments again whenever it wanted. Public Works Director Bob Perreault and Fair Manager John Steffanic told the board they had safety programs and thought the rest of the county departments would benefit from them, along with the county budget in the long run when liability went down. Ingstad and the board mem- bers thanked Montgomery for agreeing to take on the new re- sponsibilities with minimal additions to her budget and staff. The sheriffs offme- At that point, chairwoman Sherrie Thrall asked Sheriff Greg Hagwood what he thought about the change. The sheriff told her he thought his office would pose some unique challenges for the safety officer. "The work that my men and women do is, it varies, it doesn't enjoy the consistency of say working with a piece of equipment, in dealing with the two-legged animals out there that sometimes have other ideas." Hagwood said his office did a very good job in keeping up with standards and training, but "it will be certainly wel- come to have this individual coming in and working with my staff and evaluating what we do and how we do it." County Administrative Offi- cer Jack Ingstad said risk management would probably focus primarily on improving management decisions regard- ing personnel in the sheriffs office. Hagwood agreed some of the biggest claims against the county over the years came from the sheriffs office. "I don't think Shawn's go- ing to get involved in teaching you how to use a Taser," In- gstad quipped, causing a surge of laughter from the crowd, "I think that's what you guys do and you know how to do that." Hagwood agreed, "Oh ab- solutely. The sheriffs depart- ment has been the source of some very expensive litigation over the last several years so to the extent we can do a better job in that area, absolutely." Montgomery said the coun- ty safety officer would rely a lot on the expertise of each de- partment's safety officer. "I want them to work as a team for the best interest of the employees and the county, and I think they have to start with the employees first. "I mean, we've tried it the other way, working from the top down, and it's not working from what I see. "I would like to see this work from the people that are out there getting hurt and work from that up." Hagwood asked if the safety officer would be the one work- ing on reducing grievances and personnel issues. Ingstad said Montgomery could decide how to split up responsibilities in the depart- ment. He added that many of the personnel issues in the past could have been dealt with long before they became litigation. "Should have been," Hag- wood agreed. Retired Plumas County deputy Bob Shipp, who is run- ning against Hagwood for sheriff in this year's election, asked the next question. Shipp said the county changed the kinds of chairs employees were allowed to use in the past because of a per- ceived safety risk and he was wondering if the safety officer would have the power to make those kinds of decisions. He proposed a scenario where a safety officer who wasn't used to driving patrol cars could mistakenly think there was something wrong with them. "Does he have the authority to start saying half the fleet is not operational, now we have deputies on the street?" Montgomery responded, "I think maybe we're getting hung up on the name officer. "The safety officer will make no policy. The board makes policies. I will make no poli- cies; the board makes policies." At another point in the meeting, District Attorney Jeff Cunan had pointed out everyone should be aware the safety officer wasn't a peace officer and wouldn't be there to improve security at the courthouse or anything like that. Montgomery said the safety officer might look up widely used checklists for mainte- nance on patrol cars and give them to the sheriffs safety of- ricer or something like that, but the position wouldn't be about making uneducated judgments on everything imaginable. Ingstad said Trindel had been doing this program in nine other counties already, so nobody would be trying to reinvent the wheel. "I think having someone rather independently and objectively making some eval- uations of these issues will benefit everybody greatly because as department heads we have interests and some- times we're subjective," Hagwood concluded. LAFCo seeks:public member Ever wondered just what LAFCo, the group with the funny name, pronounced LAUGH-co, actually does? Well, here's your opportunity to find out. The Plumas Local Agency Formation Commission has an opening for one Plumas Coun- ty citizen to serve as a public member alternate to fill a va- cancy beginning in early 2010. LAFCo is a distinct agency created by state legislation to ensure that changes in gov- ernmental organization occur in a manner that provides effi- cient, quality services and preserves open space and agri- cultural land resources. 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Issued and guarantees backed sions of the Cortese-Knox- Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 in its decisions regarding annex- ations, incorporations, reorga- nizations and other changes of local government. LAFCo's webpage is calaf- co.org/local/plumas. LAFCo normally meets every month at the Plumas County Board of Supervisors chambers in Quincy. LAFCo alternates receive a meeting stipend and mileage costs to and from LAFCo meetings. This appointment is for one ....... member alternate who resides anywhere within Plumas County, including the territory in the city limits of Portola, to rill a term begin- ning in May 2010. A public member alternate must be able and available to attend commission meetings and (or) hearings. No officer or employee of the county or any city or independent spe- cial district within Plumas County is allowed to sit as a public member alternate on the commission. LAFCo's public member al- byNwYorkLifeInanranceandAnuitytiawhywnedsubsidiaryfqwYrkLifInsurance ternate, as are all other corn- Company, 51 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010. SMU#00378322 missioners, is required to file w00OoD PELLETS an annual Statement of Eco- nomic Interest and complete mandated ethics training as a public official. S 18 Those who are interested + tax should send a letter describ- ing their background and rea- sons for wanting to become the selected public member al- ternate no later than Thurs- day, April 1. For more information, call John Benoit, LAFCo executive ZX 9 officer, at 283-7069 or e-mail johnbenoit@surewest.net. Send letters of interest to LAFCo of Plumas County, P.O. Box 2694, Granite Bay, ( 9 letter of I For all your building materials projects. Bay, CA 95746 or email a ]l Lumber Doors Insulation Windows interest to ] Interior Molding Hardware Tools ]] Siding Superdeck Lominote Flooring II and much more johnbenoit@surewest.net. Potential applicants will be invited to the May 10 LAFCo meeting at 6 p.m. for an inter- view with the commission at the Plumas County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 520 Main St. in Quincy. Selection is anticipated to take place fol- lowing the interviews.