Power, role of coordinator are issues for county board
Pierce County Board members must be on the same page before they hire a new administrative coordinator, warned County Board Chairman Paul Barkla.
He added long-time County Clerk David Sorenson believed he lost his last election as a result of his role as part-time administrative coordinator.
Barkla, himself filling in as interim coordinator, would like to hold a day-long goal-setting session for supervisors, focusing on the role of the administrative coordinator. He asked board members to help choose a day in July.
"Until we as a board can decide what we want that AC to do, I'm afraid that success would be difficult," said Barkla.
Barkla said Friday he talked with Sorenson, who is now deceased, shortly after he lost the 1996 election.
"He said it was the union that defeated him because of the way he handled grievances," said Barkla.
Supervisor Ron Lockwood, one of three members of a committee that's reviewing the AC job description, said a consultant's study completed in June 1997 suggested the county separate the jobs of clerk and administrative coordinator.
If there is a question about the need for an administrative coordinator, the David M. Griffith and Associates answers that, said Lockwood.
He said the consultants concluded that, without central control, decision-making was fragmented with the county board and its committees making many decisions.
A review of DMG recommendations shows the consultants were concerned about the opportunity for the county board to micro-manage the operations of departments.
"Because there is no central point of contact for day-to-day management and coordination of general issues (other than the county board), the governing committees become overly involved in not only setting policy, but in directing operations," says the report.
The report also concluded it is impractical to ask the county clerk to do his own job and that of administrative coordinator.
Pierce County has had the full-time position of administrative coordinator for only a decade.
In 1987, the state began requiring counties to have an executive or administrator, or designate an elected or appointed official to serve as administrative coordinator. That person was to serve as a contact and was authorized to sign some documents on behalf of the county.
The county board asked County Clerk Sorenson to also take the title of administrative coordinator.
Sorenson served as coordinator until Dec. 31, 1996, when he left office after being defeated by Jamie Feuerhelm in the clerk's race.
County records show Sorenson was originally paid $150 a month for the administrative coordinator work, said Sandy Langer, the county's personnel specialist. That was increased to $300 a month in 1993.
Rather than transfer the AC duties to Feuerhelm when he took office Jan. 1, 1997, the county board hired DMG to do an organizational management and staffing study.
Following that study, which was completed June 1997, the county board adopted an ordinance that made the administrative coordinator a separate position hired by the board. The job of corporation counsel was also created.
The county's first full-time administrative coordinator was Mike Leighton, who began work Jan. 1, 1998, but left nine months later.
The board subsequently hired Mark Schroeder, who had been the director of the county's Land Management Department. He became administrative coordinator in November 1998, served for six years and resigned in November 2004.
In his letter of resignation, Schroeder said it was "apparent that members of the county board of supervisors and I have divergent opinions as to the best goals for Pierce County government and its management..."
After Schroeder left, Ron Anderson, who was county board chairman at the time, filled in as administrative coordinator until Curt Kephart was hired in 2005.
Schroeder's annual salary at the time of his resignation was $83,690. The board advertised the position at $65,000 and hired Kephart for that amount with a promise of $2,500 increases after six months and a year.
Kephart began work Aug. 1, 2005, and resigned effective May 20, 2008.
His annual salary at the time of his resignation was $73,500. He also received a monthly stipend of $250 for in-county travel and other expenses.