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PCSO butts heads with county admin over jailer/secretary position

ELLSWORTH – Tensions crackled at the Monday, Dec. 6 Law Enforcement Committee meeting as Pierce County Sheriff’s Office employees spoke up about a deputy/secretary/jailer position that has been removed from the collective bargaining unit and is proposed to be changed, as far as job description and pay scale go.

The position has been in the Jail Bargaining Unit for some time, but according to County Administrator Jason Matthys, the work performed in this position is not related to the jail or actual law enforcement and is secretarial, a point with which Sheriff Nancy Hove and Lt. Wade Strain don’t agree. Matthys further said that the position is inappropriately categorized as an employee with “protective status,” but doesn’t meet the requirements set forth in state statutes. “Effective Jan. 1, 2022, this position will be eliminated from the Jail Bargaining Unit and consideration is being given to the creation of a new position – to perform those clerical and other office support duties,” Matthys said in a memo dated Dec. 6.

Matthys went on to say that administration and human resources reviewed existing county positions that perform predominantly clerical, and at times, specialized assignments including confidential matters, and decided the position is consistent with an Office Specialist.

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Hove said Matthys made her aware of the elimination (from the bargaining unit) Nov. 8 and she received an email from him with a new job description Nov. 9, before he asked her for any input on the description or wage grade. Matthys said he asked for her input once the job description was crafted. She sent her response by email Nov. 10, which she said included a more accurate job description and “corrected classification vs. new position.” She provided a new job description for a Confidential Administrative Deputy, which listed multiple duties such as records management system data entry, train employees and field train officers in records management; create, prepare and maintain criminal, juvenile and forfeiture files for charging consideration and referral; direct information sharing and case referral with other law enforcement agencies and county departments, and many more.

In a letter to the Law Enforcement Committee dated Nov. 29, Hove said the job description Matthys had provided was “a somewhat generic job description for review, indicating any suggestions or input by me as it relates to the job description he presented be provided to him for consideration.”

She suggested a pay grade classification similar to district attorney’s office staff, who also handle highly confidential and specialized information, similar to the current d e p u t y /j a i l e r /s e c r e t a r y. Matthys countered that her request is not consistent with other clerical office support positions in the county and creates a “silo position.” He also said she didn’t consult HR when suggesting a wage classification. PCSO employees say Matthys didn’t consult the sheriff about changing the wage classification.

“I respectfully ask the members to review said description completed by me as it depicts an accurate representation of the duties this position embodies, as without this position it will directly impact the day-to-day operations within my office and ability to serve citizens of this county,” Hove wrote.

At the meeting, Lt. Wade Strain said Matthys is “unaware of our current effective efforts and successes regarding cross training and the specific, efficient support of operations provided by this existing position and others within the sheriff’s office.”

“We work with this position daily and are always mindful of better opportunities to implement and employ more effective and efficient methods, expectations and duties along with an already trained, experienced and qualified person immediately available to continue doing these duties without interruption,” Strain said. “The creation of a new position due to elimination of an existing position is unique. We respect this committee and your ability to consider our recommendations to make an equitable and fair wage classification based on our proposals. This position directly impacts the sheriff’s office day-to-day operations and ability to adequately and efficiently serve and protect the citizens of PC and the businesses.”

Strain also said the reclassification is a financial demotion, a 42% decrease in wages and benefits. The sheriff compiled a more accurate job description, Strain said, one that should not be minimized or overlooked. It should be no surprise that there are unique “silo positions” in the county, as is the case with the operations data analyst and 11 others in the Grade H pay scale, he added.

PCSO Investigator Collin Gilles spoke at the meeting as a union steward, saying he represented 40 or so people.

“The position that you guys are discussing at this time is a position that’s been held at the sheriff’s office for a long time,” Gilles said. “Its functions affect the absolute everyday activities for patrol and investigations. You know, we all utilize her or that position in great extent. It’s kind of hard to describe all the actual activities that she does because most people won’t have any clue how in-depth some of them are or how important some of them are. So I’m not going to go really into a lot of detail because I don’t think people really understand that, but on the union side, we just want it to be known how important that position is to our entire sheriff’s office, and they’re so invaluable it would be hard to operate without that position presence.”

Matthys responded with two points: Speaking to the county’s existing personnel policy and the responsibilities of the administrative office when it comes to classification, a reclassification or creation of positions, the administrative coordinator’s job is to determine if the position description accurately represents the duties for the new position. What it comes to wage and classification, the county will submit the new position materials to the administrative coordinator, who determines if the review will be done internally or forwarded to a consultant for evaluation.

“I understand that there seems to be some concern by the group, and I’m not saying that she’s not valuable,” Matthys said. “I think we all understand the value of the person. When I’m crafting a job description, and trying to encompass duties, I don’t want it to be a silo position … Generally, there’s a caveat at the bottom of the job descriptions that states all other duties, as assigned. Because it’s not intended to be all-encompassing.”

He then said this is a unique situation too, because the person who currently holds the position in question has been with the department for 27 years and is the person he’d suggest to be offered the newly classified position.

“If the position is offered to that individual, even though the grade is less than the individual makes, this committee could act to redline their existing wage,” Matthys said. “At what they’re making now and they would remain at that wage until they left or the salary grade catches up to them.

Chair Jon Aubart agreed it’s not for the committee to determine a position’s grade or class, but falls under the administrative coordinator and HR’s duties.

“I think this is an extremely important position,” Aubart said. “I lived this for 33 years. I get it, I understand what they do and how important that these people are in this position. And that’s why we’re here today is to make sure that the department has that position in place to do those functions. If we don’t, if we don’t do anything com Jan. 1 that will not exist.

“I just want to make sure that this is clear, the job description will provide you with the tools that you need to accomplish what’s already being done within the sheriff’s department.”

Strain reiterated that he and the sheriff don’t believe the job description was accurately written. “Consideration has been given to the list of duties and responsibilities that were offered by the Sheriff in her proposed job description and those pertinent to the position have been incorporated into the Office Specialist description,” Matthys said in a memo dated Dec. 6.

The committee voted to forward the job description to Finance & Personnel, with the request that the current employee’s salary be redlined at $90,832,84.

December 7, 2021