County: Disciplinary Actions, DHS, Public Health Update

Listen to this post

DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS

During Tuesday’s work session, Rio Blanco County commissioners discussed making changes to the “Disciplinary Action” section of the county Personnel Policy Handbook. Commissioner Gary Moyer expressed concerns over the current policy, which in some cases does not specify how employees will be disciplined in the event of policy violations. As it is currently written, the policy says “Discipline may range from informal discussion with the employee to immediate discharge, depending on the county’s opinion of the seriousness of the situation.”

“I think we’ve gotta be more specific about when policy is violated, here’s what the consequences are. It can’t just be totally discretionary. We’ve gotta spell it out, if this happens, this is what your punishment is gonna be,” said Moyer.

The county maintains “at-will” employment status, which gives both the county or its employees the right to end the work relationship with or without advance notice, for any reason. The board was informed that in order to preserve that status, they would have to be careful about being too specific with new disciplinary language. County Attorney Todd Starr advised listing “suggested punishments” for policy violations, which would still give the board some leeway when making those decisions.

Apart from a passing mention of the county’s social media policy, nothing specific was discussed Tuesday regarding policy violations or proposed punishments. The board chose to adopt the personnel handbook without changes for now, but intends to revisit the subject in the new year.

DHS

Commissioners heard from DHS head Barbara Bofinger who discussed staffing challenges due to quarantined workers, and the need for a new part-time Eligibility Specialist to process the increase in applications for food assistance and Medicaid as well as cost of living adjustments. During the regular meeting that followed, the board approved advertising for the position.

Bofinger said the department was “hanging on” in the area of child welfare. One employee is quarantined and another is receiving training in Mesa County and will “not be up and running until mid-January.”

Bofinger also discussed the White River Roundup meals program, specifically mentioning a large increase in home delivery of meals. Efforts are underway to secure some additional funding.

PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE

Public Health Director Alice Harvey informed the board that case incidence rates were down, with positivity under 10%. Department staff are still working a lot of unpaid overtime, and Harvey hopes someone will apply for the Temporary Health Nurse position posted on November 25.

As it stands, the county’s next COVID restriction re-evaluation date is set for first week of January. “That’s if Christmas gatherings don’t cause another spike,” added department employee Sarah Coker by phone.

Harvey also discussed the vaccine rollout, including plans to vaccinate hospital workers and long term care residents next week. She also suggested updating commissioners more than once a month to discuss department happenings, and to coordinate messaging around vaccines and testing. At the end of the meeting Commissioner Jeff Rector suggested meeting with Harvey bi-weekly starting in 2021.


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com