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Commission’s role clarified in creation, updating of county personnel policies

Despite multiple drafts, discussions and requests for changes, the final job description for Washington County’s legal services director/attorney essentially ends where it started, with John Rambo reporting to the 25-member commission through the Legal Services Oversight Committee.
Committee members approved the job description during their Jan. 8 meeting following the requested review by Mayor Dan Eldridge.
While the assignment of supervision for day-to-day operations was not mentioned again, Eldridge did add two duties to the job description.
“These address audit findings,” he said.
The first calls for Rambo to provide ongoing review of all personnel policies and practices with county officials and department heads to ensure they are current and in full compliance with federal and state regulations and local guidelines.
The second instructs Rambo to work with officials to develop, implement and maintain policies to identify, assess, manage and mitigate risk within county government. Eldridge said Washington County has not kept up, and policies on information security are desperately needed.
Commissioner Lee Chase asked if Washington County has an employee heading up the information technology area.
“Not in any way,” Eldridge responded, adding the need is becoming more important.
Eldridge said the position needs to be part of the implementation of the new network for the county’s telephone and computer systems.
“My goal between now and the end of the year is to develop the best recommendation,” he said.
An earlier recommendation to add a full-time employee at $50,000 per year was shot down during the October meeting of the County-Owned Property Committee whose members questioned the need.
The network was approved during the January meeting when the request for a full-time employee was taken off the table.
Continued exposure from a lack of risk management policies places the county in a dangerous position, according to Eldridge.
“We don’t even have a county password policy,” he said. “It would be an absolute disaster if someone got into the clerk’s office data, and the county had to pay the cost to have it recreated.”
Eldridge said the risk management policies need to be living documents that are updated annually, which will require a technology officer.
“We are not at a point where that position is due, it’s past due,” he said.
Commissioner Mark Larkey agreed. “I think you’ve brought up a great point,” he said.
Rambo said he has finished the job descriptions for the Legal Services Department staff, and will be meeting with county officials soon to update the personnel policies.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Highway Department have separate personnel policies that also will be reviewed.
While differences for the WCSO pertain to law enforcement, Rambo said the Highway Department’s policy relates to the work schedule and he wants to get that department in line as much as possible with other offices.
Chase asked if the updated policies will be reviewed by one of the committees prior to being presented to the county commission.
Rambo was not sure which committee would be appropriate and reminded committee members officials can opt out of following the policies.
“I think it will be a challenge if the officials come to an agreement, and then the commission changes it,” Rambo said.
Eldridge said the officials should have the final word.
“We are the ones who are tasked by state law to set personnel policies,” he said. “Let’s clarify the commission’s role. Is it to ratify?”
Commissioner Doyle Cloyd, who served as county clerk for 16 years, said he agreed it is the role of the officials to set the policies.