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Tag: Pat McCarthy


Exec orders 1 percent cut to Pierce County budget

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy has ordered a 1 percent across-the-board spending cut as the worst recession in decades continues to take a toll on county revenue.

McCarthy’s budget director, Pat Kenney, ordered the cut in general fund departments in a memo to department heads and elected officials Thursday. Kenney said “the impact of the recession upon our revenues (development activity, sales tax, police service contracts, etc.) is still quite negative.”

The move follows a series or spending cuts in 2009. And McCarthy isn’t ruling out more cuts later this year.

You can download a PDF copy of Kenney’s memo

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Attorney: Washam can decide who gets laid off at assessor’s office

Dale Washam

Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam has found legal support for his contention that he – not the county’s human resources department – has the authority to determine which employees get the axe as he tries to balance his budget.

As I reported in January, Washam proposed laying off five employees as he sought to trim $609,000 from his budget and reorganize his office. The Teamsters Local Union 117 successfully contested the layoff of one of those employees – supervisor Sally Barnes – and has contested the other layoffs as well.

All of the employees had previously filed complaints against Washam with the county’s human resources department or the state Public Employment Relations Commission. Among other things, the employees claim Washam has abused his authority and wasted taxpayer money. Washam denies all of the allegations.

Barnes’ fate has been at the center of dispute between Washam and County Executive Pat McCarthy.

Washam ordered the human resources department to lay off Barnes. After the union complained, the department determined that supervisor Billie O’Brien should be laid off instead of Barnes. The department contends Barnes and O’Brien are equally qualified for the remaining supervisor’s job, so seniority rules should apply. Barnes has seniority over O’Brien.

Here’s a PDF copy of a Jan. 22 letter from McCarthy to Washam spelling out the executive’s case that human resources has the authority to determine who gets laid off.

Washam says O’Brien is the most qualified supervisor and wants to retain her. He claims he – not human resources – has the authority to determine who gets laid off. Now he has a legal opinion to back up his assertion.

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Chambers Bay seeking state money for roads

Pierce County officials were in Olympia today to push their funding request of more than $500,000 for Chambers Bay Golf Course.

Legislators from the area agreed to support efforts to secure the money.

The public course in University Place, run by the county, will be the home of this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship  and the 2015 U.S. Open.

County Executive Pat McCarthy’s staff told members of the local legislative delegation that the county needs state money to pave roads and pedestrian paths and build a boarding area for buses. Gov. Chris Gregoire has put $511,000 in her budget proposal for

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Pierce County consolidation report due next month

What could be a major consolidation of Pierce County government may start to take shape next month, county officials say.

First up: a possible consolidation of the county’s human services and community services departments.

A committee studying the issue will make a recommendation on what to do about those departments by the end of February, Deputy County Executive Kevin Phelps told the County Council Tuesday.

The committee may or may not recommend combining human and community services. But consolidation will be a significant theme this year as Pierce County searches for efficiencies at a time of declining revenue.

Last fall County Executive Pat McCarthy requested a report on the feasibility of consolidating the human services and community services departments. The council requested reports on consolidating planning and land services into public works and utilities. And it asked McCarthy to study combining five other departments – human resources, budget and finance, facilities, risk management and information technology – into a new “general services division.”

County officials see human and community services as an obvious place to start discussions of consolidating county departments. The two departments have been combined in the past.

Human services includes services like chemical dependency, mental health and long-term care. Community services covers everything from arts and tourism to homeless assistance and low-income housing.

Phelps and McCarthy gave the County Council an update on consolidation talks at a council study session Tuesday.

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Union contests Pierce County assessor-treasurer layoffs

Dale Washam

A labor union has contested the proposed layoffs of five employees who have complained about the behavior of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam.

Teamsters Local Union 117 has successfully argued against the proposed layoff of one of the five employees: Sally Barnes, a supervisor who filed complaints against the assessor earlier this year. An investigation concluded Washam retaliated against Barnes for earlier complaints about his behavior.

Mary Ann Brennan, public sector coordinator for the Teamsters local, said Washam tried to lay off Barnes even though she had seniority over another member of her work group. Under the union’s contract, less-senior employees must be laid off first.

Brennan stopped short of claiming Washam’s effort to lay off Barnes was in retaliation for her complaints against him.

“When Sally files a complaint and it’s sustained, and then he tries to lay her off out of the line of seniority, it feels like (retaliation),” Brennan said.

Barnes did not respond to requests for comment.

The union also is contesting layoff notices for four other employees, all of them involved in an unfair labor practice complaint filed against the county because of alleged discrimination by Washam.

Washam contends the layoffs are needed to balance his budget and are not in retaliation for the complaint the employees filed against him.

After the union complained, the county’s human resources department intervened to prevent Barnes’ layoff. Washam said he – not human resources – has the authority to decide which employees lose their jobs. Read more »


AG’s office: Pierce County exec, council meetings could violate open meeting rules

Yesterday I reported that Pierce County Council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, had rejected a proposal by County Executive Pat McCarthy to improve communication between the branches of government.

McCarthy proposed expanding her weekly one-on-one meeting with Bush to include two members of her staff and two other council members. Bush expressed concern that such an arrangement could violate the state Open Meetings Act, which requires government bodies to meet in public.

I asked Tim Ford, open government ombudsman for the state Attorney General’s Office, what he thought.

Ford said it’s difficult to say whether the arrangement would violate

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Bush: Exec’s plan to improve communication would violate open meetings law

Roger Bush
Roger Bush

Pierce County Council Chairman Roger Bush has told Executive Pat McCarthy that her plan to improve communication among government officials would violate the state Open Public Meetings Act.

In an e-mail Monday, Bush told the executive her proposal to expand her weekly one-on-one meetings with Bush to include other council members “may seriously inhibit the council’s ability to comply with the Open Public Meetings Act.” He proposed continuing the one-on-one meetings.

Bush’s e-mail is the latest evidence that communication between the executive and legislative branches remains a touchy subject.

The two branches of government feuded publicly throughout 2009, with both sides accusing the other of failing to communicate.

Just before the holidays, McCarthy offered a solution: instead of meeting weekly with Bush alone, she proposed a weekly “three-on-three” meeting that would include two members of her staff and two other council members.

On Monday, Bush rejected that proposal, citing the open meetings law.

The law requires meetings of government bodies to be held in public. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, a meeting “occurs whenever the governing body of a public agency takes ‘action.’” The attorney general defines “action” as “discussion, deliberation or evaluation that may lead to a final decision.”

A quorum of the seven-member council would be four council members. That means four members couldn’t meet behind closed doors to discuss public business without public notice and access.

However, Bush contends that three members meeting together could constitute a quorum of one of its committees, which generally have five members.

“To have this many elected officials meeting behind closed doors would violate the spirit of open government that our citizens expect and the law demands,” Bush wrote to McCarthy.

I have a call in to the attorney general’s office to clarify whether open meetings requirements would apply to the type of meeting McCarthy has proposed.

Meanwhile, you can read Bush’s e-mail below. Read more »


Pierce County’s communications breakdown

Recently I recounted the ongoing tug of war among Pierce County’s elected officials, especially the county executive and council.

One recurring theme I heard as I spoke with people about the relationship between County Executive Pat McCarthy and council members was a lack of communication.

Council members complain McCarthy has vetoed ordinances without raising objections in advance. They also say she’s announced significant decisions – like a new planning department amnesty program for people who built decks and other structures without a permit – without consulting them.

“Sometimes I was reading the information in the press releases,” said

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