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RBC I As folks may have seen in the Herald Times classifieds the last few weeks, Rio Blanco County is advertising for a new budget and finance director as well as a bookkeeper for accounts payable. What’s happened?
The individuals in these critical county positions have been, respectively, for the last six and a half years, Chris Singleton, who lives in Craig, and for the last eight years, Meeker native Cassie Denney. Both are highly regarded by the individuals in county government with whom the Herald Times has spoken. Singleton, although she submitted her resignation letter to the county on July 14, has indicated she would stay on through the fall budget preparations for the county’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which has to be completed by early December. Denney’s last day as a county employee was Aug. 5.
At their July 25 meeting, the Rio Blanco Board of County Commissioners voted to approve the appointment of Singleton as the person responsible for the preparation of the 2017 budget per the requirements of state law (C.R.S. 29-1-104). The commissioners’ budget calendar requires all county agency budget estimates to be filed by Sept. 2.
Denney clearly wrote in her July 12 resignation letter that she could not continue to allow her boss (Singleton) to be pressured into taking unwarranted disciplinary actions against her for asking questions she had, in her professional capacity, about paying invoices coming to the county or simply about matters critical to her job that she had not been informed of by the commissioners.
In her letter, Denney described her regret in feeling she had to resign, as she said the budget and finance department was one “that could not be beat,” and that “she couldn’t have asked for a better boss or department than has come together here.”
For her part, Singleton’s letter of resignation stated that she had grown increasingly uncomfortable over the last two and one-half years with the responsibilities she has to provide the county with a clean annual audit while not having the necessary authority or support from the commissioners.
Singleton is also concerned that given an expected 25-plus percent decline in property tax valuation assessments and reduced assistance from federal/state funds, remaining fund balances will likely be needed to cover operations until the local economy recovers so the county needs to be careful about further commitments.
Contacted by the Herald Times, County Clerk and Recorder Boots Campbell and Assessor Renae Neilson confirmed how highly respected and appreciated Singleton is by the various county departments and employees. Both said “she really knows her stuff,” and expressed relief that Singleton is willing to lead the county’s budget development process during the next three to four months. They added, however, that anyone would get pretty tired of commuting from Craig to Meeker and back after almost seven years.
All three county commissioners were called by the Herald Times and all three returned the calls. Commission Chairman Shawn Bolton indicated he thought there were some factual errors in Singleton’s letter and some matters with which he disagrees. All the commissioners were hesitant to speak as the situation regards personnel.
Bolton added, however, that the commissioners expect employees to operate in a professional manner. Commissioner Jeff Eskelson largely echoed Bolton’s stand.
Commissioner Jon Hill expressed appreciation that Singleton will stay on to help develop the new budget. He said he hates to see her leave the county as she’s done an excellent job. He also reported that he’s always “really appreciated the job Denney has done chasing stuff down (necessary documentation and the like).”
Hill did not agree that there might be any fear of reprisal among county employees for countering commissioners or asking too many questions.