Wednesday, June 15, 2005

County salary mix-up sparks hard feelings

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."


Bill McCrory said...

Yes, Linda might have handled it in a more diplomatic, more socially acceptable manner...BUT...Daryl and Daryl overreacted. It's pretty clear her action arose from frustration, and the way she expressed it suggests this incident was one among several preceding it. She may have not informed her boss of her intended action in order to protect him from retaliation against him and the office. If she told him of her intended plan, I suspect he could have calmed her down IF he's part of the solution and not part of the (frustration) problem. This is by no means the end of her professional career. If everyone who expressed him/herself in a manner considered inappropriate by pinheaded supervisors were suspended, a lot of people would be in line for sycophant-of-the-month award.

Mike Kennedy said...

Good points, Bill. I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

it seems over the top about comments of bad decisions,bad PR, bad legal advice. The County's structure,as I understand it, has many elected officials, no administator and no one really looking out for the citizens...
I think the commissioners are trying to do the trying to make good decisions, but without the support of the dept heads ( elected) they are in a no win situation. This structure seems to me, a no win.
what if...7 commissioners (Part Time) All department heads appointed and a real County Admin. Same as our Cities.
Everyone working for the good of our citizens, the best staffers that we can afford... This may seem simple to me...Ther must be a better and more positive way to run the County..what do you think...Jon

Mike Kennedy said...


I'm all over that idea. In fact, I spoke with Katie Brodie about it and thought it was well worth a vigorous public discussion. The system we have isn't working. I'll agree with you that many folks there are well-meaning, but that makes the problem even more acute. It means that we're accepting a level of mediocrity that we shouldn't have to.

The county worked best when we had a paid administrator who was a well-trained and professional business manager.

Your idea has lots of merit - thanks for posting it.