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Technology access complicates employee termination


October 24, 2019

DAYTON–During the Commissioners’ meeting October 21, the topic, Employees Let Go for Cause and Access to Technology, was explored and discussed. There has been some concern about employees moving from one department to another or dismissed.

When an employee is terminated for cause, there is a concern about access to technology (such as emails). An employee let go for cause cannot be subsequently allowed to work in another department that has access to technology. The situation gets more complex if that employee worked two different departments and was let go from one department, but is still considered in good standing to work in the other department. How should other departments be alerted to these situations?

The Information Technology (IT) Department Manager reported that an email from a Department Manager is sufficient to immediately remove the employee’s access to technology. However, it was mentioned that all employees who dealt with the terminated employee need to be notified at the time any incident happens.

It was suggested that an email to all Department Managers would work. However, Sheriff Joe Helm mentioned that he was specifically advised by the County Prosecutor for those situations not to email all Department Managers, only to principle areas where that employee worked, and to IT Department.

Another Department Manager concurred that they had received the same advice. There were situations where it is not as complex, such as one department with access to technology and the other department does not normally have access to technology. Although the number of employees who work more than one department is not widespread, the current employee policy manual needs updated to specifically address these types of situations.

Sheriff Helm reported that last week’s Game Night with the Students as part of Homecoming Activities was a success. The school is looking for ways to get the Sheriff’s office more involved. Plus, Helm is pleased with the number of volunteer applications for Search and Rescue. It is hoped that by November formalized meetings can be held for this.

County Auditor Anne Higgins reported that the Logic and Accuracy test for the election tabulation system worked one hundred percent. Every vote for every race was tabulated correctly. She also reported that ballots were mailed October 18.

Martha Lanman, Administrator for Columbia County Public Health, reported that the Coalition for Youth and Families Drug Free Community survey is available and would appreciate community participation. The survey addresses community perceptions of whether or not there are drug issues and was sent out in a County email. Lanman also reported that the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, formerly administered by vouchers, is now electronic with participants using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. Columbia County was the last county in the state to convert to EBT.

Scott Marinella, Court Commissioner, reported that caseload is up sixty percent. Misdemeanors are taking too long to adjudicate.

There was discussion on federal grants as a result of a Grant conference recently held at the Best Western Hotel in Dayton. The current Federal grant system was recently changed to allow a local government agency to receive grants from different Federal agencies for one project. Although each grant is technically a separate grant, it can be managed as one total grant. Federal agencies have grant money that has not been claimed. The Federal Government is limited in how they can advertise the availability of grant money. It is incumbent upon local governments to seek out the grants by calling any and all Federal agencies to seek grants. If one federal agency lacks funds, it can refer another agency.

WSU County Extension Agent Paul Carter reported the 4-H Endowment was set up in November 2018 and the goal of $50,000 was funded by March of this year. Efforts are being continued to grow the fund. The 4-H Awards Night is scheduled at the Dayton Elementary School multi-purpose room on November 3, at 6 p.m.

Clint Atteberry, Planning and Building, reported that Washington State Department of Transportation will widen the Whetstone Bridge near Turner on US 12 and realign the Turner intersection. The project is anticipated to start in March, 2020.

Charles Eaton, Public Works Director, mentioned that the Personnel Manual mentions nepotism as being by department, yet does not give a strict definition of what a department is. Mr. Eaton wanted clarification on “department.” In Engineering, there Engineering Operations and Engineering Administration. Are those two considered the same department or are they two different departments? The issue is….there are job openings where spouses and/or family members of current employees are applying for those jobs. If Engineering Operations and Engineering Administration are the same department then a lot of job applicants will be disqualified. Mr. Eaton wanted confirmation that the Engineering Operations and Engineering Administration can be considered two different departments so as to not exclude some qualified applicants for the job openings. The Commissioners accepted that Operations and Administration were separate departments.

Lanman reported that Environmental Health is still working on a Solid Waste ordinance. She set up a meeting between Garfield County Hospital, Garfield County School and Shane McGuire, CEO at the Columbia County Hospital. Because of that she received a $2,500 check (to Columbia County Health) for being a good partner in the community. She was free to use the money as needed. Ms. Lanman chose to use the money for testing to obtain Food Worker Cards for 10th graders at Dayton Schools. The reason for selecting 10th grade is that most students will be 16, which is the age where students start thinking about part-time work in the restaurants.

A grant to Columbia County Public Health is able to provide gas cards to people who need to take their family members to specialized health care located outside of Columbia County.

Public Health is also working with The Club to provide Teen Nights.

County Health is also working on outreach and providing information on the new vaping rules. (As of March, 2019, the legal age for smoking and vaping in Washington State is 21.) Further, Ms. Lanman reported that the grant from Department of Ecology for Dump Site Investigation runs out June 30, 2020. A new two year grant will be given July 1, 2020. Columbia County Health has used about $3,000 in the last two years despite having budgeted for $15,000. Department of Ecology has stated that if the money is not going to be used, it will be taken away. Authorization was given to renew this grant.


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