Clallam commissioners agree to work collaboratively with treasurer, other department heads

PORT ANGELES — To start the new year on the right foot, Clallam County commissioners have resolved to work with other elected officials and department heads in 2017 to develop a countywide strategic plan.

They also committed to working more collaboratively with Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis, who plans to raise a series of issues with the board this year.

Commissioners Mark Ozias and Randy Johnson agreed Tuesday to schedule a meeting of the county’s leadership team to begin to develop a long-range plan for the organization.

“I think that would be fantastic — a great way to kick off the year,” Ozias said.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 19.

Commissioner Bill Peach was absent from the work session and business meeting Tuesday because he was serving with the state Board of Natural Resources in Olympia.

Since much of the county’s day-to-day work is under the operational control of independent elected officials, County Administrator Jim Jones said it would be “most productive and in our best interest if we could approach this as at least as an organizational, countywide effort with all of the departments.”

In addition to strategic planning, Ozias encouraged county leaders to share information about their roles “so that the public has a better understanding, and so that we can do a better job of supporting each other.”

Early in the work session, Barkhuis provided an initial list of five issues that she planned to address with the new-look board in 2017.

With Johnson taking office Dec. 27, the board now has a combined three years of experience between Peach’s two years and Ozias’s one year.

“It occurred to me this is a relatively new board,” said Barkhuis, a sixth-year treasurer and 13-year county employee.

“Hopefully, we can prevent some of the misunderstandings that have occurred in the past.”

According to an executive summary, the issues Barkhuis plans to raise this year are:

• Staffing and resource needs. The treasurer is in the process of replacing two of six staffers. She is also responding to a public records request for 40,000 of her emails and is planning for the continuation of operations.

• Treasury disbursements. Barkhuis issued a Dec. 28 memorandum outlining her disbursement policies. She plans to discuss property tax refunds with commissioners in a Feb. 6 work session.

• County revenue collections. Barkhuis will discuss personal property tax collections Feb. 6 and county franchising later in the year.

• Public Records Act. The treasurer will share her perspective on what led to a $518,000 settlement that Clallam County paid last July. She also will discuss a public records-related lawsuit that the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed against her last spring.

• Treasurer’s Tax and Timber Report. Barkhuis plans to publish her annual summary of the distribution of timber revenue in March.

“I will be back a lot this year, and I’ll discuss all of these things in more detail,” Barkhuis said in the Tuesday work session.

Barkhuis said she would seek commitments from each commissioner that they would invite her, in writing, to any closed-door executive session where she, her work product or office would be discussed.

Clallam County v. Barkhuis, a complaint for declaratory relief and petition for writ of mandamus, was filed after an executive session last March.

“I can tell you from my perspective that that will not happen (again),” Ozias said.

The public records-related case was dismissed at the request of commissioners shortly after it was filed.

“Lawsuits, I think you’ve heard me say, are the antithesis of any place I want to go, ever, if there’s any way to avoid it,” Johnson told Barkhuis.

Ozias said the issues Barkhuis raised could be addressed in public forums like board work sessions, special meetings or quarterly Finance Committee meetings.

“Selinda, I know that you have an awful lot of balls in the air right now, and I would like us to sort of bite this off as you are able, and as your time and schedule allows,” Ozias said.

Given the substantive nature of the issues Barkhuis raised, Johnson agreed that they would need to be addressed “bite by bite.”

“The fact that you care is wonderful,” Johnson added.

“I care a lot,” Barkhuis said.

“I want to make that very clear. I really care about this county, I really care about Port Angeles and I really care about doing the right thing for taxpayers. And I always have.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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