Report leads to directive to resources department |

Report leads to directive to resources department

El Dorado County is tightening its personnel policies, the subject of criticism in a Grand Jury report.

Supervisors told the Human Resources Department to ensure all county departments abide by the same rules, Supervisor Dave Solaro said.

“We directed them to make sure all departments are in compliance and they assured us they were already working on that,” Solaro said of discussions held three or four weeks ago. “They were on top of that, but the board reinforced it for them.”

Past practice allowed some county departments, including the Sheriff’s Department, to handle their own personnel matters. The El Dorado County Grand Jury, in a report released Thursday, said the Sheriff’s Department promoted people who were not qualified; placed seven managers in acting positions without authorization; and violated rules governing proper use of sick leave.

From October through March, for example, the county was paying salary for two undersheriffs when only one position was authorized. The Grand Jury described that situation as a “misuse of public funds.”

Sheriff Hal Barker did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment Friday. In a written response, he acknowledged the department “needs to do better” in handling personnel matters.

“If you need two undersheriffs, there’s a proper way to accomplish that, and that wasn’t done,” said Kenn Womack, foreman of the 2000-01 Grand Jury. “If they didn’t need two undersheriffs, somebody should have taken the appropriate moves in October to bring that organization into compliance with their personnel allocation.”

While the Grand Jury originally acted on a complaint involving the Sheriff’s Department, it expanded its investigation to include the Human Resources Department. Among other problems, the Grand Jury found that staff were not checking the qualifications of applicants for any of the county’s job openings.

“Not only is it a concern for the Sheriff’s Department, but it raises questions regarding the overall personnel administration of the county at large,” said Womack.

The Grand Jury recommended the Human Resources Department be “responsible and accountable” for all of the county’s personnel actions.

Kathye Libicki, the county’s human resources director, and interim Chief Administrative Officer Tom Soike could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Hennick, who seeks to replace Barker in the March election, said he has first-hand knowledge of personnel problems in the Sheriff’s Department.

On June 21, he won an appeal filed with the Civil Service Commission, claiming he was unfairly excluded from the promotional exam for lieutenant in March 2000. Since then, he said, four officers have been promoted to lieutenant.

While the commission ruled in Hennick’s favor, it hasn’t yet decided on a remedy.

“I’ve won the appeal, but I still won’t believe I’ve won my promotion until I’m wearing the bars,” Hennick said.

The Grand Jury report on the Sheriff’s Department will likely be an issue in the upcoming campaign, Hennick said.

“Those types of improprieties speak volumes about the leader of this department,” he said. “For a grand jury to investigate those things and find them to be true says a lot about his (Barker’s) administrative abilities.”

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