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Pierce County Council reconsiders communications department shakeup

Post by David Wickert on Nov. 18, 2009 at 11:04 am |
November 18, 2009 11:04 am

One of the mini-controversies swirling around Pierce County’s 2010 budget is the fate of the county communications department.

The three-person department reports to County Executive Pat McCarthy and oversees internal and external communications. Director Hunter George also oversees PCTV, which telecasts County Council meetings and other programs.

Last week the council approved a budget-related ordinance that makes the communications department report both to McCarthy and the council, instead of solely to the executive.

Council members want communications to work like the government relations department, where director George Walk reports to the executive and council. In February the council cut its own communications position to save money (though Brad Chatfield wound up as Chairman Roger Bush’s assistant and kept some communications responsibilities).

McCarthy hates the idea of splitting supervision of the communications department with the council. She reportedly sees the council move as an encroachment on her authority to oversee county departments.

McCarthy’s camp says there’s a natural tension between the executive and legislative branches that can make it awkward for departments to report to both.

Take Walk, for example. Earlier this year differing executive and council opinions forced him to testify both for and against a state legislative effort to force Pierce County to end poll voting.

Now it looks like the council may back away from last week’s decision.

At Tuesday’s meeting Councilman Shawn Bunney, R-Lake Tapps, moved to reconsider the ordinance calling for the communications shakeup. The council unanimously approved the motion to reconsider and sent it to the council’s rules committee for further discussion. The issue is scheduled to be back to the full council on Dec. 8.

Bunney indicated the council will have further discussions with the executive’s office about the issue.

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