By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
The Bonner County commissioners’ Jan. 3 meeting marked the last weekly business meeting appearances by District 2 Commissioner Jeff Connolly and District 3 Commissioner Dan McDonald, as next Tuesday’s quorum will feature commissioners-elect Asia Williams and Luke Omodt.
Williams and Omodt, along with other county officials elected in November, will be sworn in on Monday, Jan. 9 at 9 a.m. in the Bonner County Administration Building first-floor conference room.
McDonald and Connolly’s last business meeting lasted all of 15 minutes, but covered a wide range of county departments and issues. Most notably, the board voted unanimously to delete a portion of policy related to county employees’ ability to run for office against their superiors.
McDonald said the board opted to strike the policy — known as Bonner County Personnel Policy 440 — because “we believe it is the constitutional right of our employees to run for political office of any kind.”
“Basically, the way the policy reads, if you work under an elected official, you would have to quit your job in order to run for that seat, which, to me, seems like it builds in a lot of obsolescence,” he added. “Someone who has been working under an elected official will have a lot of knowledge.”
McDonald cited Bonner County Treasurer Clorissa Koster as an example of that intracounty experience preparing a person for an elected position. Koster was a longtime employee of the county before being appointed as treasurer in May 2022 after Cheryl Piehl’s resignation, and again securing the position during the November election.
“To me, it looked like an infringement on individual rights,” McDonald said of the policy.
Commissioners Connolly and Steve Bradshaw agreed, with Connolly saying it “just reeks of a ‘you stay out of it, I’ll take care of it’ type of thing.” Bradshaw called it “un-American.”
The board voted unanimously to have Bonner County Personnel Policy 440 struck from the personnel handbook.
Also during the Jan. 3 business meeting, commissioners approved a request from the clerk’s office to submit a Public Defense Commission Annual Report; accepted a bid award for the Sandpoint Airport to obtain snow removal equipment through the use of state grant funds; and adopted an ordinance attached to a zone change that the board had already approved Dec. 21. Planning Assistant Director Travis Haller said that the ordinance was meant to be approved that same date, but was missed. The Jan. 3 action was “just cleaning up what was missed in the staff report,” he said.
Human Resources Director Cindy Binkerd brought forward two items at the Jan. 3 business meeting, including an update to the county’s furlough policy — originally adopted in 2020 — expanding its possible use beyond coronavirus-related staffing or financial issues. Commissioners approved the update with a unanimous vote.
Also at the recommendation of HR, the board approved the creation of a Tuition Reimbursement Program, which would allow for county employees to see tuition reimbursements of up to $5,250 for job skills training obtained during their employment. Binkerd said that the funding for the program was secured during the 2023 budget hearings.
“There’s a process that the individual needs to go through that needs to be signed off by their department head or their elected official, then it is reviewed by Human Resources, and then comes to the board of commissioners,” she added.
McDonald said the intent of the program is “to help enhance the services to the county” by investing in employees’ educations and certifications.
Agendas for upcoming Bonner County commissioner meetings are published online at bonnercountyid.gov/commissioners under the “2023 Meeting Agendas & Meeting Minutes” tab on the left side of the home page. Weekly business meetings are held Tuesdays at 9 a.m. in the Bonner County Administration Building third-floor conference room, located at 1500 Highway 2 in Sandpoint.
Links to attend the meetings via Zoom video conferencing can be found on each agenda. The meetings are also live-streamed on the Bonner County YouTube page.
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