County administrator meets with employees

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By AJ Vicens

A glimpse into the thoughts and fears of Jeffco employees was offered last week as County Administrator Jim Moore began a series of town hall meetings with employees in the Jeffco Laramie Building.

“I heard that we don’t have enough contact unless there’s a budget crisis,” Moore said to the couple dozen employees gathered in a human resources training room the afternoon of March 26.

Moore outlined his vision for the county, including guiding principles, changes on the horizon, and ongoing issues that county employees know all too well, like budget and revenue challenges. The meeting was half educational and half pep rally, with Moore encouraging employees to have pride in working for Jeffco and to know that some people will never be satisfied.

“There are people in this nation that want to see government fail,” Moore told the group when talking about his vision for the county. He reminded them later in the meeting during a discussion of declining county revenues that the “long-term revenue picture is not too pretty, but it’s a heck of a lot better than it was.”

During a discussion on the need to be transparent, Moore reminded the group that “citizens absolutely have the right to know how we’re spending their money,” but then contrasted that with a somewhat negative assessment on citizen involvement in county affairs, like the Citizen Budget Review Panel that will be reconvening later this year: “(Citizen involvement) could be messy, could be scary, it could be difficult, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Moore said the county must undertake a wage study, adding, “Not everyone will like it.”

During the question-and-answer period, some employees shared their concerns.

“What is Jefferson County doing during the (Democratic National) Convention period for the protesters? Is there any planning in place?” one woman asked.

Moore said county leaders don’t anticipate problems with protesters from the Democratic National Convention the last week of August, and, if anything, Jeffco will be helping Denver authorities with manpower and other assistance.

Another woman asked Moore what plans are in place in light of an internal security survey conducted in 2007 that recommended more training for front-line employees who deal with the public.

“I think the guy started March 16,” Moore said, referring to a new security manager in the sheriff’s office who is coordinating internal security. He added that plans in that arena “don’t exist yet,” and said a committee including Todd Leopold, the county’s director of administrative services, is developing the plans.

“I’ve been here 20 years today, and I saw more turnover in my department because of fear in the department (than ever before),” one woman told Moore. She was referring to the budget-cutting process in 2007, when employees were unsure if they would get scheduled raises and if their benefits packages would remain in place. “We lost great experienced (employees) that should have been kept and treasured,” the woman said. “Is there going to be more mass exoduses? It scares me.”

“I hope not,” Moore said. The main message leaders were trying to send during the budget-cutting process — when the county had to shed about $12 million from general fund expenditures — was that department heads and elected officials should still look for ways to give employees their raises and bonuses. He acknowledged that the county had to cut a retirement matching program, which he said employees were told from the beginning might not be permanent.

“I hate it when these people leave too,” Moore said, adding that a continued focus on competitive pay and benefits will remain a priority.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

County Administrator Jim Moore has already held two Town Hall meeting with employees. The remaining schedule:

- 9 a.m. and noon, Wednesday, April 23, Human Services department meeting

- 9-10 a.m. Wednesday, June 11, Administration and Courts Facility Hearing Room 1

- 2-3 p.m. Thursday, June 12, Administration and Courts Facility Hearing Room 1

- 9-10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10, location to be decided

- 2-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, Administration and Courts Facility Hearing Room 1

- 9-10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, location to be decided

- 2-3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, location to be decided