SAGUACHE COUNTY — During the selection process for county administrator this summer, all meetings regarding the administrator’s selection were conducted during executive session, which appears to be a violation of the Colorado Open Records Act.
Saguache County has a long history of open records and open meetings violations according to former Colorado Press Association attorney Steve Zansberg.
While a job description for the position was made available by county administration after the fact, state law requires that:
“A search committee of a state public body or local public body shall establish job search goals, including the writing of the job description, deadlines for applications, requirements for applicants, selection procedures, and the time frame for appointing or employing a chief executive officer of an agency, authority, institution, or other entity at an open meeting.
The state or local public body shall make public the list of all finalists under consideration for the position of chief executive officer no later than 14 days prior to appointing or employing one of the finalists to fill the position. No offer of appointment or employment shall be made prior to this public notice. Records submitted by or on behalf of a finalist for such position shall be subject to the provisions of section 24-72-204(3)(a)(XI) .
As used in this subsection (3.5), “finalist” shall have the same meaning as in section 24-72-204(3)(a)(XI). Nothing in this subsection (3.5) shall be construed to prohibit a search committee from holding an executive session to consider appointment or employment matters not described in this subsection and otherwise authorized by this section” (CRS § 24-6-402; VIII, II, 3.5 regarding open records laws).
In the previous selection process that resulted in the hiring of David Bitler, the job search goals, including the writing of the job description, deadlines for applications, requirements for applicants, selection procedures, and the time frame for appointing a county administrator was not discussed publicly at any length.
The actual interviews held with finalists during an executive session Aug. 20 for the position could be considered legitimate under the last paragraph of the law above. But the fact that there was no formal publication of finalists or discussion of the selection process prior to selection is contrary to the provisions of the statute.
The job description for the administrator’s position below was provided in August by Saguache County administration. Changes to the description are being considered and commissioners are required to discuss the nature of the job description and any changes made in a public meeting.
County job description
This is the chief administrative position for Saguache County. An employee in this position is
appointed and supervised by the three-member Board of County Commissioners. The
administrator supervises the day-to-day operation of the county government. The administrator is responsible for financial records to include transfers and supplemental appropriations required to maintain the county fiscal compliance with any State and Federal laws, planning, developing and recommending policies and programs for consideration by the County Commissioners, as well as implementing, monitoring, and evaluating all county policies, programs and operations once in place.
The administrator works closely with elected county officials, representatives of other local governments, State and Federal representatives, the media and the public. Because of
the nature of county government under Colorado law, the County Commissioners retain a
significant involvement in the operation of county departments. Functions as the county weed
coordinator, the county economic development manager, and the county risk manager.
Essential duties and responsibilities include:
• General administration of the following county departments: finance, human resources, building and grounds maintenance and housing.
• Oversight for the office of County Commissioners
• Timely preparation of agendas, adequate follow-up on agenda action taken and collecting Department reports prior to commissioner’s meetings
• Attention to routine details.
• Providing a status report to Commissioners at Board of County Commissioner meetings.
• Notifying Commissioners of critical issues or problems and keeping Commissioners current on their status.
• Investigation and response to any complaints of discrimination or sexual harassment; also handling of grievances according to the Personnel Policy.
• Establishment/maintenance of effective working relationships with departments not under the administrator’s immediate supervision
• Other duties may be assigned.
Tact, flexibility, strong leadership skills, mediation skills, public administration skills, composure, the ability to generate enthusiasm and the ability to effectively generate written and verbal presentations also are mentioned as desirable qualities. Knowledge of public administration, especially the areas of budgeting, personnel, procedures, office management, and data processing are also listed as must haves.
Applicants must possess three years of increasingly responsible management experience in the public or private sector, preferably at the administrator or assistant administrator level. Equivalent experience will be considered. Knowledge of governmental accounting and financial reporting also principles of Colorado law as applicable to Colorado counties is required.
The administrator must have proven performance in management skills, finance and budget, and be able to build and maintain public relations, including public hearings.
A county administrator serves at the pleasure of the board of county commissioners. An extensive background investigation will be performed on criminal record and past work experience.