Selah’s proposal for a full-time attorney who also serves as the city’s Human Resources Director is not playing well with City Council members and some among the public.
While some of the council members were OK with converting the city attorney’s position from a contract position to a full-time job, there was pushback on adding personnel matters to the position’s portfolio. Instead, some suggested at Tuesday’s meeting that the city should have an HR consultant on contract.
While City Administrator Don Wayman said the HR director’s job title could be eliminated, he said the city attorney would still be involved in personnel matters.
“Let’s be clear: HR is not a father confessor. it is not a separate entity that works separately of management,” Wayman said. “Anything that is told to HR goes directly to me. If you want to hire a straight-up city attorney, fine, but (serious HR matters) will be directed to the city attorney.”
The proposal is part of the city’s proposed $16.5 million budget for 2021. Wayman first announced the proposal at the council’s Oct. 28 meeting, and it was formally presented during Tuesday’s budget hearing.
City officials entered a contract with D.R. “Rob” Case for $108,000 in October 2019, which the council increased to $120,000 in August.
Wayman said the question of whether Case would be offered the job or it would be opened up to others was “a question for another day,” but said traditionally the city tries to fill positions in-house first.
In the proposed budget, the city attorney would be paid $160,000 a year and assume the duties of HR Manager Andrew Potter, who resigned in September. Wayman said that salary level was needed to attract a qualified candidate who would be working without a staff of clerks or assistant attorneys, unlike Yakima and Ellensburg.
Councilwoman Suzanne Vargas, who headed HR for Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, said HR should be independent of both Wayman and Case. She also questioned why the city would offer that much when its former city attorney, Bob Noe, was offered $132,000 to come on full time.
Council members rejected the proposal to hire Noe 5-2 in July 2019.
Residents who commented in the meeting also called it a terrible idea. Jim Mesplie said it would not be worth the $16,000 saved by eliminating the HR director’s position to have the attorney juggle the two duties and other issues.