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Complaints about HR shared at board meeting

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Complaints about Plumas County’s human resources department continue to be voiced. Elected officials, department heads and employees have brought concerns to the Board of Supervisors during public comment, as well as during agenda items, over the past several months.

Sheriff Todd Johns has complained consistently about the slow turnaround and delays in processing applications and testing, which he said has caused him to lose potential employees; but it was the comments from a health department employee that were particularly pointed during the board’s April 18 meeting.

Lori Beatley, a 20-year county employee, who now works for Public Health, read a statement to the board during the public comment portion of the meeting, detailing complaints with the human resources director. The letter made it clear that it wasn’t the entire department that was being singled out for criticism: “I wish to emphasize this is in no way directed at any of the other overworked and dedicated human resources department employees. … Please provide more oversight of the HR director to ensure no further abuse of authority.”

When she concluded her allotted three minutes of speaking time, a coworker resumed reading the letter. (Beatley said she had three individuals prepared to finish reading the statement.) At one point, the comments caused County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero to ask County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr if such remarks should continue.

“Is this getting into a closed session area?” Lucero asked. “I’m feeling uncomfortable that this is happening.”

Stuhr responded that members of the public have the right to voice their opinion.

Beatley brought two areas of concern to the supervisors — the first pertained to a reorganization of Public Health that was submitted in January of 2022. “It has been 14 months with no resolution,” Beatley said, and asked the board to approve the proposed reorganization in its entirety, which would benefit the entire organization. She added that the delay in approval is putting grant money in jeopardy for the health department. She acknowledged that the human resources department is probably understaffed as are all county departments, but said a “14-month delay is unacceptable.”

The second issue specifically focused on Human Resources Director Nancy Selvage. “I am sure all of you are well aware of the role of HR is to manage recruiting, hiring, firing, benefits, payroll, and government regulation in regard to employment issues and many more important duties. Another significant area of responsibility is to assist employees whether it be through benefits or conflict resolution. However, over the last decade or so our county HR has evolved into an adversarial role, which is directly related to the dictator-style leadership style of Nancy Selvage, the director of HR.”

Beatley shared examples of the director’s interactions with employees regarding certain work situations, which already had been approved by the public health director. “I am asking you to allow our department heads to run their departments without unauthorized interference by the HR director.”

Because Beatley’s comments came during public comment, the board did not respond. The day following the meeting, Beatley said that she received many messages of support for her remarks.

During an interview, County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero said it was unfortunate that the issue played out in the public. “I think she’s (Selvage) one of the most professional people we have on staff.”

District 4 Supervisor Greg Hagwood said he thinks that some of the frustration with human resources results from staff not understanding all of the federal and state laws that must be followed and how they impact the way the department addresses the issues.

More personnel issues

A great deal of time was spent during the April 18 meeting discussing the impact of a 4-10 hour work week and deferred holidays and how to best account for the time. Deferred holiday pay has been accruing on the county’s  books and the county must pay in 2023 dollars, for time dating back in some cases to 2011.

The process set forth by the county counsel and human resources was eventually approved by the board of supervisors but is seen as a temporary measure until new personnel rules are adopted.

“The personnel rules are 20 years old and have been amended many times,” County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr said. The county’s personnel rules were adopted in 2000.

“There’s a lot that needs to be amended,” County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero said. “This is a bridge.” She added  that it had been approved by the employee unions.

All who spoke seemed to agree that the new process, which would require every individual who worked a 4-10 hour shift to seek approval by the board, is unwieldy. Additionally, District Attorney Dave Hollister and Public Health Director Dana Loomis told the supervisors they worried about the privacy of their employees — their schedules would become publicly known, which could potentially be a safety concern. To allay that concern, it was proposed that employee numbers, rather than names would be used in documentation for the board.

Public Works Director John Mannle said his staff works 4-10s during the summer and reverts to a regular schedule in October — a schedule that has been in place for about 30 years. He asked if he would need to return twice a year to receive board approval to make the switch, and if he would need to appear before the board every time he hired a new employee. “If you want them to get paid,” CAO Lucero said. She said the point of the change is to ensure that payroll can be completed accurately. The documentation provides the human resources department and the auditor the information needed to pay employees correctly. “We have to make sure that people are getting paid right,” she said.

The board voted to adopt the proposal, but wants to see a new draft of a personnel policy by July 1 for adoption by Sept. 1.

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