Supervisors give thumbs up to reorganization

Consolidation move opposed by some residents who favor job cuts

KINGMAN - Despite concerns and requests for more job cuts by residents and some elected officials, the Board of Supervisors approved the reorganization of county offices during its meeting Monday by a 2-1 vote. Supervisor Buster Johnson cast the dissenting vote.

The plan will consolidate 17 county departments into four management teams, each headed by a deputy county manager. Each deputy manager would report directly to County Manager Ron Walker. Currently, department heads from each of those 17 departments report directly to Walker.

Despite the increase in salary for the four county department heads who will be promoted to deputy county mangers under the plan, the reorganization is expected to save the county around $560,000 by eliminating seven unfilled positions and streamlining county offices.

No new employees will be hired and no current employees will be fired or laid off, Walker said.

"I believe by continuing to look at revenues and this reorganization, Mohave County can continue to remain ahead of the curve," Supervisor Gary Watson said, referring to the downturn in the economy.

"There's no bad time to make smart business decisions," Walker said, referring to the reorganization plan. "Unfortunately, change has almost always had to be accomplished over the objections of some short-sighted critics and some people who absolutely don't understand the present nor have a vision for the future. What I'm proposing is a reformation of our leadership and reporting structure."

The county is "well-positioned" to move forward within existing revenues, Walker said, but cautioned "it won't be painless."

"I have heard arguments that we should be reducing employees' pay, reducing their benefits and eliminating their jobs because of the poor state of the economy," Walker said. "I also understand there are a lot of people who are really angry over the current economic conditions, and they blame the government and they blame all of the government.

"I want to say that neither our managers nor our employees are responsible for the poor state of the economy. We have responded to try to be ahead of those problems. We are not responsible for the plight of those who are badly affected by the poor economy. We can't sit here and look backward. We've got to look forward to when the economic winds change direction."

Opposing views

"I don't have a problem with reorganization. But without job cuts - we're only hearing about promotions here - I really don't see how we're going to save this money," said Roy Hagermeyer. "I do think that consolidation of these departments is a good idea. I can tell you when you look at a private company what they do is consolidate jobs, and there's no pay raises, just more work. It happens with every major corporation that you look at."

"We need to manage our budget first. Quit spending money and make sure that when we do these consolidations that people are getting more responsibility and no more pay for it. We need to do the right thing. We need to be fiscally responsible."

"I think Mr. Hagermeyer must have been dozing when we were talking about the fact that this cuts positions permanently and reduces our annual cost," Walker said.

"Don't play us for stupid," said a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Kurt Kudson. "And don't think that because we oppose certain aspect of your reorganization plan and question raises, and question the propriety of certain other decisions, that we are stupid, that we don't understand things."

There's a lot of talk of saving half a million dollars, but there doesn't appear to be any specific details as to how this would happen, she said. Cutting positions that are not currently filled is not a cost savings.

"I do not see the cost savings," Kudson said. "This appears to be voodoo economics."

By approving the plan, the Board would only be removing itself further from the running of the county government, she said.

Court concerns

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss asked for clarification on the Criminal Justice Services Department that would be created under the new organization.

According to the reorganization plan, the Public Defender's and Legal Defender's offices, along with the appeals and contract attorneys would be consolidated under the Criminal Justice Services Department. The offices would each operate under their own independent manager, but that manager would report to a deputy county manager for administration purposes.

The courts were willing to support a similar plan, Indigent Legal Services, proposed last year by the Walker and County Public Defender Dana Hlavac, Weiss said. But now there was this new plan and it was unclear if the proposed Criminal Justice Services Department would function in the same way. The courts were especially concerned about who would appoint legal counsel to indigent defendants.

The Criminal Justice Services Department would function just as the previously proposed Indigent Legal Services would, Hlavac said. Appointments of counsel would remain with the judges, as required by state law. The only thing that would be different is that the paperwork would be handled through a central office.

Johnson was the only supervisor to raise concerns about the proposed reorganization.

"I think the idea of reorganization has some merit to it," he said. However, he disagreed that cutting positions that were not currently filled was saving money.

The seven positions that are currently unfilled and frozen under the county hiring freeze are funded by the current county budget, Walker said. By cutting the position the county would eliminate funding for the position entirely.

Any salary increases gained by department heads being promoted to deputy county managers was included in the nearly half million saved through the proposed reorganization, County Finance Director John Timko said. The salary increases would be less $100,000 per year for all seven positions.

Johnson suggested promoting the department heads but not increasing their salaries until after their first performance reviews.

"We can beat a dead horse just as long as we want to," said Board Chairman Tom Sockwell before making a motion to approve the reorganization. "If there are folks out there that are not happy with it, so be it."

According to the reorganization plan, the Planning and Zoning, Environmental Health, Emergency Management, Flood Control, Public Works and Economic Development departments will be consolidated into the Development Services Department.

The Public Defender's and Legal Defender's offices along with the appeals and contract attorneys will operate under the Criminal Justice Services Department.

The County Finance, Information Technology, Human Resources and Procurement departments will be grouped into the Management Services Department.

Community Services including One-Stop and Career Services, along with the Public Health Department and Public Fiduciary will be consolidated into the Health and Community Services Department.

The Clerk of the Board, Public Information, Office of Management and Budget, Elections, Risk Management and Library and Television districts will continue to be under the direct control of the County Manager's Office.