Teton County HR

Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation operators Logan Henrickson and Cody Daigle work in March 2019 to clear packed ice and snow from a section of pathway. The county is currently mulling a review to county-wide employee policy, which would cover parks and rec employees and others.

After more than a year of review, county commissioners still have a few final issues to resolve before they can approve revisions to the handbook for county employees.

An eight-person committee was appointed to review the handbook in October 2018, but the process sparked debate as elected officials and department heads all looked to get the best deal for their employees.

On Jan. 27, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners discussed approving the policy manual, which hasn’t been updated since 2011, in the second session on the topic of the new year. But after spending the morning on four outstanding policies, they put the vote off.

The meeting came about three months after the county attorney’s office issued a legal opinion addressing questions about the role of commissioners in “promulgating” personnel policies among departments administered by other elected officials.

Teton County Prosecuting Attorney Erin Weisman said in an email that she instructed Deputy Attorney Keith Gingery to author the opinion because she was “interested in getting to the bottom” of “whether the board’s personnel policies automatically applied to the other individual elected offices.”

Weisman and others had expressed concerns about balancing the amount of leave proposed with employees’ obligations to run a public office.

“The personnel policies I’ve struggled with the most are likely the ones my employees want — more time off,” Weisman wrote. “It’s difficult to find the balance to keep employees engaged and happy, while fully serving the public, being available to the courts, and to our [clients].”

The final report drew a distinction. While commissioners have the ability to approve personnel policies for the departments they oversee — health, planning and building, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS and others — their authority does not apply across the board, it suggested.

In the county attorney’s view, elected officials like Weisman, who manages the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office, and Sheriff Matt Carr, who runs the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, have the ability to adopt all, part or none of the policies approved by commissioners.

Gingery said the county attorney’s opinion made the officials involved realize some work still needed to be done to reach consensus on a handbook that could be adopted across the board.

“It forced everyone to recognize checks and balances,” Gingery said. “We’re going to have to collaborate. We’re going to have to get this done together.”

Carr said he feels like his department is “being heard now.” Though he was not in office when the committee was formed in 2018, the sheriff noted other emergency services officials, such as Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen, were not part of the committee charged with steering the update.

“I think that’s why these more challenging parts have arisen,” he said.

One of the outstanding issues commissioners and officials tangled with on Jan. 27 was how the sheriff’s office compensates detention officers for overtime. Another was how much compensatory time — overtime paid at time-and-a-half in leave rather than cash — county employees could accrue and bank. That tool is used by the sheriff’s and fire departments to entice employees to fill out extra shifts.

Carr advocated keeping both policies as they are, but he also said he was interested in adopting a countywide policy.

“As an elected official, commissioners can’t make policy for my department,” Carr said, “but I want to work together, I want to be collaborative.

“The goal is to get a policy that works for all county employees,” he said.

Commissioners and other county officials are set to take up the issue again Monday. They will likely chew over the remaining emergency services issues, as well as other questions about a proposed paid family leave policy and how to compensate employees out on jury duty.

Agreement has already been reached on opting in to a few new leave options and opting out of pre-employment and random drug testing.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

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