By Michael Howell
On Monday, April 28, the County Commissioners agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding that delegates the supervision and management of the Office of Emergency Management to the Sheriff. Back in 2003 supervision and management of the OEM was moved from the Sheriff’s Office to the County Commissioners Office. This reverses that move and returns the management to the Sheriff’s Office immediately.
Discussion about the status of OEM was precipitated by Director of OEM Ron Nicholas’ retirement. Wednesday, April 30, will be Nicholas’ last day on the job.
Nicholas, who attended Monday’s meeting, said, “I agree with it. I think it’s a good move right now. It’s a comfortable, meaningful move.”
Undersheriff Steve Holton said, “This is a big deal for the public safety and a good deal for the public.”
Sheriff Chris Hoffman agreed, saying, “It’s a good thing for the community. It makes our ability to deliver public safety more efficient.”
Commission Chairman Greg Chilcott, who once served as Director of OEM, had high praise for Nicholas.
“Ron has been here for eleven plus years and performed the duties of Director of OEM in a very professional, but very quiet fashion,” said Chilcott. He said that Nicholas always gave credit for successes at OEM to others, while his actions contributed significantly to the successes.
Chilcott said moving the OEM back under the management of the Sheriff’s Office was a good move that he could support. He said the mission of the Sheriff’s Office and that of OEM were very compatible and consistent with each other. He said that he worked in the office under the old structure that they were going back to and could see some significant gains in efficiency by the move. For one thing, he said, it is easier to deal with one boss than it is to have five bosses. He said management by the County Commissioners meant that the Director of OEM had to meet with the Board of Commissioners for direction rather than simply stepping into one boss’s office.
The new delegation of management to the Sheriff includes full management and supervisory authority, applicable to personnel policies, and requisite operational policies and procedures. It also includes full fiscal authority to incur obligations and expend budgeted funds, but subject in this current year to the fiscal year 2014 budget for the OEM, and subject in subsequent fiscal years to the applicable county personnel policies and applicable law generally, as well as amended from time to time.
The Commissioners reserved to themselves the exclusive right to institute county-wide personnel and other policies, and the authority to set the final fiscal year budget.
The vote to adopt the MOU was 4 to 0 in favor. Commissioner Suzy Foss was not in attendance.