Finance director quits as deadline for budget nears

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RBC I With more work yet to be done on the 2010 budget — scheduled for adoption next month — the county will soon find itself without a budget and finance director.
Diane Sorensen, who for the past three years has been the county’s budget and finance director, submitted her resignation to commissioners last Friday. She has accepted another job outside of Rio Blanco County, but declined to identify where.
“I would rather not,” she said.
Sorensen’s last day on the job is Nov. 13.
Sorensen said there were differences between her and the commissioners, which ultimately led to her decision to leave.
“I would’ve preferred to stay,” Sorensen said. “I told them I had a job offer, and if they wanted me to stay, these were things I would need. It wasn’t a power play.”
Commission chairman Joe Collins wished Sorensen well in her next job.
“If there were differences, I wasn’t aware of them,” Collins said. “She just found another job, for a little more money. You can’t blame people for leaving. So we’ll just adjust and move on.”
Sorensen said one issue that arose was when commissioners revised the budget deadlines she had proposed.
“They changed that by six weeks. And they changed it based on, well, people always resist change,” Sorensen said. “They wanted to keep it the way it’s always been. The budget director’s job is to make the budget calendar, and I did, and I allowed this department two more weeks for prediction of revenues and the economy, and it was overturned.”
What will the delay mean for the budget schedule?
“They are still going to be a month behind,” Sorensen said. “By this date, we are almost always completely done with workshops (individual meetings with department heads), and we just started last week. The day we started our workshop last week, we should have been done a week before.”
While the timing of Sorensen leaving is less than ideal, Collins said he expected the county’s budget process to be completed on time.
“We’ll be OK,” Collins said. “It’s a bad time, but we’ve already made a couple of other contacts with people who have helped us through some things in the past. So, hopefully we can find somebody to fill in the gap until we get the budget adopted.”
Typically, the presentation of the budget — for adoption by the commissioners — is made the first week of December.
Asked if she thought the county would complete its budget on time, Sorensen said, “I can’t speak to that. I have no idea. I will just keep working to be as close to possibly being done as I can.”
Another issue for Sorensen was the commissioners’ response to an audit report by Bert Bondi of Bondi and Co. of Englewood. The county is required by the state to be audited annually.
“They wrote a letter to the auditor, without talking to me, and that’s who I deal with, telling him he overstepped his bounds. That the board objected to him addressing any management issues,” Sorensen said.
The audit report was presented to commissioners Sept. 14. The commissioners’ letter to Bondi and Co. was dated Sept. 16.
“While the board welcomes comments related to financial operations, it also feels that organizational structure is a management decision and not a financial decision,” commissioners said in the letter. “The board expects future management reports to be related to fiscal and not general management items.”
While not a requirement for the job, Sorensen is a certified public accountant. However, she said, the county “questioned the continuing education costs for my licenses, while approving those costs for new licenses in other areas.”
Sorensen replaced Tom Judd, the county’s long-time finance director, after he retired. During her time as budget and finance director, Sorensen said she sensed a resistance to change.
“I did come here with the hopes of helping with the transition,” she said. “But the resistance to change and the acceptance of that resistance made my responsibilities and duties difficult to accomplish.”
Collins said the county will begin advertising for Sorensen’s replacement immediately.
“We’re going to hopefully find somebody, maybe from another county, just to help us get through the rest of it (the budget process), until we get it finalized,” Collins said. “We’ll make it.”

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