This situation is all too familiar.
At the last Clatsop County Commission meeting, Commissioner Sarah Nebeker had a few things to say about the actions of fellow Commissioner Leanne Thompson. Nebeker called out Thompson on her behavior in terms of her interactions with county management and staff. Nebeker said it was "not pleasant" to talk about. She pointed out that the county is fortunate to have an experienced, professional county manager and a competent, well-qualified staff that, "serve the county with efficiency and quality". Saying the county does not want to spend money needlessly and wasting staff time is wasting taxpayer dollars.
Nebeker said staff contacts by Thompson appear unwanted, unproductive, and unprofessional. Nebeker said in putting her hands on staff insisting they do what Thompson wants them to do, putting them in the most difficult position, is "unacceptable to me" she said. She charged that Thompson had wasted taxpayer dollars by her actions
Nebeker said that commissioners have a forum to discuss matters and reach consensus and when consensus does not come about "we need to let things go".
Nebeker said, "placing blame on the county manager for Commissioner Thompson's actions is unacceptable to me"
Commissioner Lisa Clement echoed Nebeker adding that the board is now in a situation where the County Manager feels he must shield his staff from the board.
Thompson did not respond. It's reported she may respond at an upcoming commission meeting.
This situation is familiar to anyone following Astoria politics and the similar antics of a former city council member who capped his performance with a public shouting match with the city manager in the lobby of city hall.
Thompson is also under fire over her reimbursed expenditures over her term of office. It's important to note that she does carry a far heavier load than the other board members when it comes to committee assignments which require some travel and lengthy commitments. Perhaps she is doing too much. Those things take a toll. That former Astoria councilor put his hand up for a number of jobs as well.
Commissioner Clement said perhaps there should be guidelines established so the board knows where the line between county management and county commissioners is drawn.
There actually is just such a guideline. It comes in the form of a resolution approved eight years ago that clearly defines the role of commissioners in county government. It states that the board has just one employee and that's the County Manager. Board members agree not to meddle. While it doesn't have the force of law, it does clearly define the relationship. Board members approve contracts, are the final stop for land use decisions and create policies and laws in cooperation with the Manager.
People should read that before deciding to run for office. Most local governments have something like it that defines everybody's role. It would head off a lot of future headaches.