County Examining Hiring Practices Within Boards

By Beacon Staff

Flathead County’s Human Resources Department has been told to look into the hiring practices of the county’s various boards and districts after multiple entities reported hiring part-time workers who are not on the county payroll.

At a meeting with the Flathead County commissioners, human resources officer Raeann Campbell said a recent survey of the county’s boards and districts – such as the various sewer, television and water districts – revealed that 22 of 99 reported employing part-time workers.

Most of these employees are not on the county payroll, Campbell said.

“From what I gathered it was just real basic,” Campbell said in an interview after the meeting. The workers might mow the lawn at a cemetery once a week or take board minutes, or even help with grant writing, she said.

The hiring is similar to paying independent contractors. One TV district board member hired his wife to help with bookkeeping, she said, but he no longer works on that board.

Campbell said the initial results are a bit skewed, however, because there was confusion among the boards and committees during the reporting process.

“The confusion is that some of these boards think that they actually employ people but they don’t.”

For example, the Fair Board reported that they hired the fair manager. The fair manager, however, is a county employee already on the payroll, Campbell said.

Others include conventional contracted work, she said, such as a TV district hiring a specialist from Missoula to work on a project.

The part-time employees in question are paid through the board or committee’s budgets, Campbell said.

Campbell said she is looking at what other big counties, such as Missoula, are doing in this situation. Her initial research shows that those counties make the boards and districts put all of their employees on the county payroll.

Such moves could help avoid a workers’ compensation lawsuit if an employee were to get injured, she said.

The commission voiced some concerns after hearing Campbell’s report. Commissioner Pam Holmquist asked whether those employees are working enough hours to qualify for benefits, which Campbell said they are not.

Commissioner Jim Dupont said the county is “sticking its neck out” with these workers, and that they represent a double standard of hiring practices. The county’s established hiring process includes advertising the open position, he said, as well as taking multiple applications for one job.

“I say we get their employees terminated and start all over,” Dupont said. “It’s hard to say ‘terminate’ when we didn’t hire them to begin with.”

The commissioners asked Campbell to further investigate the situation and find out how many people are actually being paid through the boards and districts and not the county.

She said after the meeting that she expects to compile a report for the commission on the hiring details within the next couple of months.

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