What is the hurry to replace County Administrator, Jim Jones? Jones recently announced his retirement and has agreed to stay on past his first stated retirement date if commissioners need more time to hire his replacement.
It would only make sense to hold off on this important decision until after the upcoming election. There may be a new county commissioner in the 3rd district. He or she should be in on this hiring decision. After all, if we do get a new commissioner he/she will be the one working with the new administrator for the next four years.
Also, there is some confusion as to what will be the duties of the next county administrator. Will he or she be a “county executive,” tantamount to a “county mayor,” while someone else handles the financial affairs of the county? This appears to be the thinking of the commissioners at this point. They have, over the past two years, been discussing creation a new position called “Chief Financial Officer” to oversee a possible newly organized “Finance Department.”
It is no secret 3rd district Commissioner, Bill Peach wants to put the county commission in charge of investing the county’s $100,000,000 reserve funds. While this idea seems to be gaining traction at the county commission the legality of such a procedure is much in doubt. Presently the state constitution places investment decisions with the county’s treasurer.
To date the county commission has made some dubious “investments” from the county’s Opportunity Fund. Take for instance the one million dollars presented to the Port of Port Angeles for their much ballyhooed composites recycliing project. So far all we have to show for that is at least one pickle-ball paddle. Casual observers have not yet spotted a truck-load of pickle-ball paddles leaving the facility.
In another million-dollar give-away the county recently sent one million dollars to a Chicago non-profit, ostensibly for local infrastructure. What it actually went for was the destruction of 33 perfectly good homes owned by the Peninsula Housing Authority. This money was supposed to be “matched” by private investors. When asked, the housing authority refused to name the private investors with whose money our million dollar gift was co-mingled.
In the run-up to this latest million-dollar giveaway at least 16 official documents came out of the county stating this money was going “for the construction of a new Boys and Girls Club. When this duplicity was brought to the attention of Commissioners Johnson and Peach their reply was, “clerical error.”
State law requires proper legal notice when doing a “budget emergency” as was required to gift this money. In the official legal notice, printed in the daily paper, it even listed it there as “for the construction of a Boys & Girls Club.”
Commissioners had to perform a “do-over” hearing because the official notice was botched.
With the above scenarios can you imagine the exposure if these county commissioners suddenly had one hundred million dollars of taxpayer money at their fingertips?
This is the same batch of commissioners who sought to sue former county treasurer, Selinda Barkhuis when she refused to lend the city of Port Angeles $4 million for their clean-up of the city dump.
Barkhuis showed commissioners where, in the statutes, it makes the county treasurer personally responsible for any investments of taxpayer money that turn sour. Didn’t matter. They prevailed upon County Prosecutor, Mark Nichols to sue Barkhuis–attempting to bully her into making what she considered risky investments. This must have contributed to the stress causing Barkhuis, a good and valuable public servant, to resign from the office of county treasurer with a full year left on her second term.
Now, imagine putting county commissioners in charge of one hundred million dollars to do with as they have done with Opportunity Fund money. This is sufficient argument for putting off hiring of a new administrator AND installing a puppet “finance department.”