Clallam County’s King Administrator by Selinda Barkhuis, WSBA 24139, County Treasurer

Republished from April, 2015.

First, I take issue with the County Administrator’s claim, appended to my last PortOCall article, that my “same old, tired rants and accusations of wrong-doing have been reviewed and/or investigated by the appropriate, responsible parties, and have been found to be baseless misrepresentations in every case.”

In fact, the State Auditor DID find that “the County is not following its policy regarding budgeted transfers.” According to the County Administrator, “generally, generally ‘the County‘ means ‘the Commissioners.‘” So it was “the Commissioners” then who failed to direct their County Administrator to follow the County’s own policy regarding budgeted transfers, resulting in a dismal lack of transparency involving $millions in County General, Capital Projects, REET 2, Carlsborg Sewer, and Opportunity Funds. One of my goals in the Charter review process is to see this dismal lack of transparency addressed.

Also according to the County Administrator, the Sheriff “took care” of any “criminal” allegations. Indeed, the Sheriff is apparently of the opinion that, under the Criminal Code, the appointed County Administrator, who apparently serves only the County Commissioners, gets to cite an interpretation of an Attorney General Opinion “right on point” during a public meeting attended by the press, which “may or may not be correct” but “that supports his argument” that the County Commissioners have “sole discretion” to make loans to other taxing districts from $30 million in County General, Roads, and Capital Project reserve funds, in direct contrast to the stated position of the elected County Treasurer, at the expense of the statutory rights of the public and the other local governments, and to the personal detriment of the County Treasurer.

I “may or may not” agree with the Sheriff on that one.

But what I want to find out from the Charter review process is whether the County Administrator gets to do so under the County’s Charter, Code, Policies, and his Employment Contract.

Independent Accountability for County Administrator.

Under the Charter, only the County Commissioners can “remove” the County Administrator. They can do so “at will.” Or they can keep him “at will.”

There is little point taking my issues to the County’s Human Resources Director. Not only do he and the County’s private law firm work directly subordinate to the County Commissioners and their County Administrator, it is the County Administrator himself who is the main decision-maker under the County’s Personnel Code and Policies.

And there is little point expecting other County elected officials to advocate on my behalf. To what end advocate when it is entirely within the County Commissioners’ “will” to keep their County Administrator regardless of another County elected official’s opinion? In the meantime, they are, like me, dependent on the County Commissioners and the County Administrator for their budgets and staffing.

In my personal opinion, there should be another accountability clause in the Charter that is administered completely independent from “the County,” to review the actions of the County Administrator under the County’s Charter, Code, Policies, and his Employment Contract, with the authority to hold him appropriately accountable, including removal.

The King Administrator.

In the meantime, during his March 11, 2015 presentation to the Charter Review Commission, the County Administrator explained that the Charter provision that calls for him to “serve the Commissioners and the County…” means that he serves the Commissioners both “individually” as well as “collectively.” He said that “if one Commissioner tells me to do something, if I want to do it, I do. Theoretically. But if the majority of the Board tells me to do something, they are then ‘the County’ and I have to do it, period, end of story.”

Really?

So where do the other County elected officials fit in? Where do the County taxpayers fit in?

Is this interpretation really what the County voters intended?

The County Administrator also spent an inordinate amount of his allotted time discussing his pay, yet he managed to forget to mention the 5% matching contribution (almost $600 per month) and the $340 per month car allowance he receives in addition to the $11,955 per month in salary, with his overall compensation package, including medical insurance, topping $180,000 per year.

He also compared his pay to the elected Executives in the Charter counties of King, Whatcom, Snohomish, and Pierce. In contrast, the pay of all other Clallam County employees, including the elected officials, always gets compared to counties similar in size to Clallam, regardless of whether they are Charter counties, to wit Cowlitz, Island, Lewis, Grays Harbor, Mason, and Jefferson.

But our County Administrator, who serves and is accountable to only two registered voters (the majority of County Commissioners), apparently compares himself to the likes of the King County Elected Executive, who serves and is accountable to 1.2 million registered voters.

Does the County Treasurer have any rights? Or only duties?

As I have written about at length, as the County Treasurer, I have suffered significant problems by this County Administrator.

And basically my question to the Charter Review Commission is this: Do I, as the duly elected County Treasurer, a constitutional officer like the Prosecutor and Sheriff, have the right, under the County Charter, to fulfill my extensive constitutional, statutory, and fiduciary duties and responsibilities free from undermining by the all-powerful County Administrator, whether or not so directed by “the County”?

And if so, how do I exercise that right?

For more articles and my Treasurer’s 2015 Timber & Tax Report, see my blog at www.Patoday.com.

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