It's official - this story has now made national news (Seattle PI/APStory linked). I actually know Linda Payne, though I haven't seen or talked with her in years. I actually didn't know she was in the public defender's office. She has a personally inspiring story of clawing and scratching her own way through college and law school basically on grit and little money. It's true that Linda didn't handle this well from an interpersonal/employee point of view. But if she were looking for publicity, then she's received it in spades.
I would be more inclined to be harder on Linda if two of the three county commissioners weren't so seemingly inept at all facets of their job (the third commissioner is new but very bright and savvy, and I'm still waiting with baited breath for her to come out and lead the other two out of the woods). From the colossal failure of the railroad refueling depot that they mishandled, to the quarter-million dollars worth of payouts to disgruntled ex-employees, to the continued blindness to the need to plan better for growth, this County Commission is one of the worst I've seen in the 14 years I've lived in Idaho. Their continued reliance on secrecy in matters that should be public, bad legal and PR advice, and basic bad judgment is really staggering.
The bottom line is that personnel and HR issues are among the most vexing in any enterprise, public or private. But the leadership of this county has been so bad that every perceived slight and every miscommunication are grounds for mutiny among the staff and fodder for the press. Working in government isn't easy. It's harder when you're either clueless or routinely use bad judgment.
So Linda may get national headlines, and management experts will criticize her gesture, rightfully so. But at the end of the day the buck has to stop somewhere. Our current County Commission keeps working to pass it wherever it will go, however they can.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: County salary mix-up sparks hard feelings: "COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- Kootenai County commissioners have suspended a public defender who allegedly sent them a crude message in a greeting card about a mistake in her pay increase."