Clallam commissioners eye new county finance department

Move would require a vote of the people

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners are looking to create a new finance department for the county, using existing positions from the Auditor’s Office and Commissioner’s Office — but to do so will take a vote of the people.

Before the county can move staff from the Auditor’s Office into the Commissioner’s Office, an amendment to the county charter must first be approved by Clallam County voters.

“In a normal organization this would be small administrative work, but since we’re a county government … the process is a little more complex,” said Commissioner Mark Ozias during the Monday work session.

The new department would be called the Office of Financial Services and Economic Analysis and is intended to streamline county finances.

The commissioners said they would set a hearing for 10:30 a.m. July 31 about the proposed changes to the county charter. After that hearing, the county would draft language that would go on the November ballot.

All three commissioners said they support the reorganization.

It’s part of the county’s efforts to reduce the scope of the role of the county administrator.

The board has discussed the possibility of splitting the function of the county administrator into two positions: a county executive to oversee day-to-day operations and a chief financial officer who would oversee the budget and lead a newly created finance department.

Currently the county administrator, Jim Jones, manages the day-to-day operations and is responsible for the county’s budget.

Jones, who has worked as the county’s top executive since 2006, said in February he could postpone his planned Sept. 1 retirement until October. The county is now searching for his replacement.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said with what’s currently required of the county administrator, it’s an “impossible job.”

“You’re in charge of the budget for us as well as 13 direct reports,” Johnson said Jones. “We’re asking that person, Jim, to do an impossible task.”

Stan Creasey, the Auditor’s chief accountant, said the proposed change is fairly straightforward.

“We’re talking about a minor reorganization, but one that will have significant advantages,” he said.

Staff from the Auditor’s Office, who handle the actual expenses, would join with staff who prepare the budget. Currently they work in separate departments.

“We’re also feeling the need as far as a physical organization to move this into the same space as the Commissioner’s Office to facilitate communication,” Creasey said. “Something as simple as a door … can have substantial degradation to communications.”

Creasey said he believes there could be cost savings associated with the change, though he didn’t know specifically where they would be found.

Johnson said the current model for managing finances is outdated and that it makes sense to have the people who prepare the budget to be in the same room as people who handle the actual numbers.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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