County commissioners should be committed to honor, public trust

By By Pattie Cook, Curry County Commissioners office manager/custodian of records/advisory board coord. April 20, 2011 04:00 am

Perhaps the “silent majority” supports the Curry County Commissioners’ recent consolidation plan.

I am sure they understand that those who are forced to cut expenses just to exist do it the same way. They start by cutting the items of least importance first. Those that were not silent consistently and overwhelming spoke in support of maintaining job creation, but perhaps it will satisfy them to know that now the commissioners themselves can use the bulk of that state money to fund existing or as yet undisclosed projects as they choose.

Tax collection, safeguarding the county funds, and keeping the commissioners’ business flowing cleanly, legally, and transparently may be popular places to begin the cuts, also. They might still agree with the decisions even if they knew all the proposals, recommendations, and input that were submitted in writing by our esteemed roadmaster, assessor, and former commissioners though they were never mentioned or discussed in public. If the public had all the information the commissioners had when making their decisions, they may still have supported them in silence; I wouldn’t like it, but I could live with it.

What I have enormous difficulty living with is the way it is being done. While publicly proclaiming such displeasure at having to make these difficult and painful decisions; and though perfectly legal for any one commissioner to discuss business outside a public meeting, they  each have chosen not to communicate with any of the human beings whose lives are being impacted. Their own support staff, the very people who have worked face to face with them since the day they took office, have never had a single word or even a hint of what was to happen during this entire process, except what was said in front of the public and the camera at meetings.

I can tell you from firsthand experience how devastating it is, as an employee, to be unprepared and completely blindsided in public and hear your bosses inviting qualified candidates to apply to replace you before making an official decision or even coming to consensus. Since that first announcement it has been a long and torturous ordeal to learn the details of our elimination exclusively through public meetings. I have to admit that Commissioner Itzen did pat me on the shoulder once before going in to the meeting to cast his lot with the other two. Now, I hear at today’s meeting, another long-term, well-respected employee came right out and asked why no commissioner had ever discussed her job status and possible elimination outside a public meeting. I don’t know yet what the response was. Guess I’ll just have to wait for the minutes.

From today’s public meeting I learned that we will be gone on June 30 at the latest, but we could get our  two-week notices at any time before then. The best part of today’s order says that existing staff is invited to apply for the new positions. That sounds decent and fair and I think I could actually qualify for the director position. I could probably even pretend to be able to take on more responsibilities and do more work in less time with less help. Maybe trying to hang on to a job for the pay increase would be worth ignoring my conscience and abandoning my work ethic and self respect. The last few weeks have been torturous, but commissioners are, after all, committed to honor and uphold the public trust, so sure – sign me up for more.