Clerk raises on hold for now

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SANDPOINT — Bonner County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to withhold substantial raises to three deputy clerks.

The vote followed the county Job Evaluation Committee’s rating of the job description and additional analysis by Human Resources Director Pamela Allen, who plugged the committee’s findings into the county’s wage matrix.

Allen said the committee’s ranking, which focuses on the job description, fell short of the ranking proposed by Clerk Marie Scott. However, the job descriptions were outdated.

“The job descriptions that were evaluated were old job descriptions,” Allen told the board.

As a result, Scott can update the job descriptions to more accurately reflect the current duties of the three auditing staff members and resubmit the raise requests for additional review by the committee, which is composed of elected and appointed county employees.

Moreover, the raises can be applied retroactively if it’s ultimately determined that they are indeed justified, according to commission Chairman Cornel Rasor.

Commissioners decided on split votes earlier this month to have the Job Evaluation Committee review the raises, a protocol that has been observed by some departments, but not by others.

Scott included the raises — which range from $9,555 to $12,085 annually — in her budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1. When commissioners adopted the budget, they believed they could only acknowledge the raises if Scott had money in her budget to pay them.

Commissioners subsequently determined that state law and the Idaho Constitution enable them to approve or deny the raises and voted to have them analyzed by the jobs committee.

Commissioner Lewie Rich has cast the lone dissenting votes on the issue because he believes the scrutiny of the raises amounted to a politically-motivated attack on Scott, allegations which Rasor and fellow Commissioner Mike Nielsen deny.

Treasurer Cheryl Piehl, meanwhile, contends the board decision to have the committee evaluate the raises could ultimately be nullified because the issue was identified in overly broad terms on the board’s agenda.

“I still have my complaint for the open meeting law violation,” she reminded the board.

Rich and Piehl have argued that raises awarded to sheriff’s deputies and that department’s non-sworn personnel were not subjected to the same level of scrutiny as other office’s raises.

Deputy raises were widespread in the 2012 budget and slug of additional ones were approved in July, when the board thought it could only acknowledge the raises because Sheriff Daryl Wheeler had the budget to award them.

It’s unclear if the raises given in July will be examined by the jobs committee.

“The difficulty is those officers have received their increase, which is now a property right — and a potential for a lawsuit,” said Rasor.

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