Commissioner Agendas & Minutes
COMMISSIONERS SPECIAL MEETING
November 14, 2014
Commission Chairman, Steven E. Joy called the meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners to order at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, November 14, 2014 in the conference room at the county courthouse in Ellsworth Maine with Commissioners Brown and Blasi in attendance.
Adjustments to the agenda:
MOTION: to add significant deficiencies found in the 2013 General Fund Auditors Report as posted on the State Auditors website. (Blasi/Brown 1-2, motion failed) Discussion: Commissioner Brown questioned who found the deficiencies (the auditor) and what they were. Commissioner Joy stated that he would like to put the discussion off until the auditor presents her findings at one of the December meetings. Commissioner Brown seconded the motion for discussion and asked if they were deficiencies that were reported and what they were. Commissioner Blasi stated that they were reported and he is talking about misstatements and lack of internal controls and reporting financial statements that are listed on page 3 of the Audit Management Letter as recommended suggested. Commissioner Brown questioned if that is where the airport one is, Commissioner Blasi responded yes, but there is more to it. Commissioner Brown stated that the Management Letter needs to be discussed with the auditor during their visit in December adding that if the commissioners try to circumvent that at the wrong time, we may get in the wrong direction. Commissioner Brown preferred to be able to ask the auditors the meaning of their suggestions/recommendations written in the Management Letter. Commissioner Joy stated that he thought all parties, the CFO, the auditor, should be present in order to have the discussion.
MOTION: to add a discussion under item 1c, regarding a bill received from Rudman & Winchell for consulting fees for the Hancock Wind project. (Joy/Brown 3-0, motion passed)
With regard to the sale of two jail vans in which bids were opened at the November 7th CRM; Commissioner Joy clarified the bid opening and the process that followed. Jail Administrator Timothy Richardson stated that on Monday he took the proposals down to the sheriff, while he was there he received a phone call from a school asking if the bids have been opened, he acknowledged that they had. He also spoke with Commissioner Brown and asked if the bids were going to be readdressed or if the bid process would be reopened; he reported that Commissioners Brown stated that the bids were public knowledge. Richardson stated that he went down and advised the sheriff of that. On Wednesday morning the bids were placed on the sheriff’s desk with a note stating that Joe did not think that we would be reopening the bids again. Commissioner Brown clarified that what he meant was "you couldn't accept that bid from the school otherwise you would have to reopen the bid process." On Wednesday afternoon Richardson received a call from the county clerk stating that the sheriff has taken possession of the titles, accepted checks and sold the vehicles.
Commissioner Joy stated that one of the reasons why the titles are kept in the commissioners' office is for this reason right here; he questioned how the sheriff took possession of the vehicle titles without somebody saying "I've got to check the minutes." Clerk DePrenger stated that she had been working in her office and noticed that Sheriff Clark was in the outer office, through her mirror. She noticed that the Deputy County Clerk and the Sheriff were talking and continued on with her work. After approximately 10 minutes, she walked out into the outer office and inquired as to what the sheriff was doing in the outer office. At that time she was told that Sheriff Clark was there to obtain the titles for the two jail vans. The Deputy County Clerk explained that the office procedure of signing off on copies of the titles was followed by both parties and he left with the titles. With the knowledge that the sale of the vehicles had not been approved, the Clerk contacted the Sheriff's Administrative Assistant to find out what was going on; at that time she was notified that the vehicles had been sold for $1,000 and $800 a piece and that they have checks in hand for the vehicles; that they have in fact been sold. Commissioner Brown gave a brief history regarding the retention and distribution of vehicle titles. Commissioner Joy stated that the person who takes the commissioners notes and minutes should have physical custody of the documents. Commissioner Joy clarified that the opinion of one commissioner is just that, an opinion or recommendation; decisions have to be made by a vote of two out of three commissioners being in favor prior to moving forward. Administrator Richardson, stated that it was his understanding from Commissioner Brown that the bids were public knowledge and if the school was interested in placing a bid, policy would need to be followed. Commissioner Joy stated that at one time he himself was interested in the vans but in checking them out, he found the posted information difficult to read as it was posited in the front window which was very dark; he stated that the situation was handled poorly all the way around. The titles should be held in the Clerk's Office from now on. Commissioner Joy stated that in his opinion, the bids should have been rejected and the process should have been rebid.
Commissioner Brown wanted to know what gave the sheriff the impression that the vans could be sold. Administrator Richardson stated that it was probably due to the note he left on the paperwork, on the sheriff’s desk and that he did not communicate directly with the sheriff about what was going on. Commissioner Joy stated that the vans belong to Hancock County and the commissioners are responsible for the sale of them, just like all hiring and firing of employees. Commissioner Brown stated that Administrator Richardson should not take blame for the situation as it was the sheriff’s responsibility; he stated that he was not going to approve the sale because it was done wrong. Commissioner Joy stated that if we vote against the sale, what do we do then? Commissioner Brown replied nothing. When asked if he had a comment, Commissioner Blasi replied that he did not.
MOTION: to approve the sale of the jail vans. (Joy/ died for lack of a second)
Clerk DePrenger suggested acknowledging that the vans were sold and to state the sale amounts of $1,000 and $8,000. CFO Roy stated that audit standards and Title 30-A require the commissioners to vote on the sale of any assets. He suggested a motion stating that the commissioners agree to sell the assets for a specific amount of money. If a motion is not made, it will affect the audit and may be written up as a deficiency. He suggested putting the funds into a capital reserve account to replace the vehicles in the future as the BOC will not be providing funding for the future purchase of vehicles. Commissioner Brown disagreed stating that you can approve the money but not the sale. Commissioner Joy stated that all titles should be in the name of Hancock County, not the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office. CFO Roy stated that there may be a reason for the titles to be in the name of the Sheriff's Department, he will research this and report back.
MOTION: to accept the money for the sale of the jail vans, funds to be entered into account G11-2025-00. (Blasi/Joy 2-1, motion passed, Brown opposed) Discussion: Commissioner Blasi questioned what account the funds would be deposited into; it would be the jail vehicle reserve account G11-3125-00, this account number was added to his motion. Commissioner Brown stated "just as long as we are not voting on the sale of the vans". Commissioner Joy stated that it was his belief that once we have accepted the payment we are approving of the sale.
Discussion: Telecommuting Policy and its implementation: Commissioner Joy requested to go over the Telecommuting Policy, he wanted to go through it, not in specific to any employee, but to clarify what was approved and what the commissioners think is says, and how they would implement the policy. He reiterated that it was not employee specific, but policy specific. If they are going to now use the policy, the commissioners needed to go through it and get a sense of how they would implement it.
Regarding the 1st paragraph: Commissioner Joy stated that some jobs probably cannot be done through telecommuting, for example maintenance, there are some jobs that it is ineffective.
- Commissioner Joy stated that he thought sometimes, through a Workers Comp case or others, the commissioners may have to come up with telecommuting and that is why we have this policy.
- Commissioner Joy asked the clerk "if approving a telecommuting type thing, is it something that the healthcare provider would offer suggestions, would we ask a healthcare provider for their input on this?" Clerk DePrenger replied no, I would not. Commissioner Joy went on to say "if their healthcare provider thought it was the way, that the employee could not go to work, is that on the FMLA sheet?" Clerk DePrenger replied, "it is not that specific with regard to telecommuting, it is specific in asking can the employee return to work with any restrictions."
- Commissioner Joy asked if a union employee had to be here for 6 months to be a full union employee. Clerk DePrenger replied, according to the policy, yes.
- CFO Roy stated that this is repeated at the end of the document, so you've got this in here twice.
- CFO Roy stated that this is also in the policy twice. Commissioner Joy stated that in some cases the county provides cell phones and/or laptops and in some cases the county does not. He stated that the commissioners should be aware that they may have to provide equipment, in some cases if we are going to approve this for one of our employees.
- "Consistent with the County Commissioners expectations of information asset security for employees working at a home office, telecommuting employees will be expected to ensure the protection of proprietary company and customer information" CFO Roy expressed his concern with this sentence because the county currently does not have a policy of what constitutes asset security and suggested that the commissioners may want to consider writing a policy regarding asset security. Commissioner Joy stopped CFO Roy and stated that we are not there yet, if we get there, we will decide on that. Commissioner Joy stated that if we are going to have sensitive documents, although most of our information should be accessible, not necessarily specific account numbers and passwords but should be at least accessible within the county.
- Commissioner Joy stated that he thought that what the commissioners are trying to do is at least say that the county will have laptops, that sort of thing, that would make it so that they can be used at the home office.
- CFO Roy stated that this is a big concern in the policy because what you have done in #7 is say that you are not going to be responsible, but then you take responsibility when you come to someone's worksite and make suggestions for modifications; understanding when HR comes into my office and makes suggestions for modifications for height requirements and screens and that type of thing then the county takes responsibility to make sure that that gets done so the employee doesn't get hurt. When you make such a statement, if something does happen, you end up having to take that liability because you made those suggestion; especially when it comes to Workers Comp and liability of injury through poor work habits and that kind of thing, I think you may end up taking up that responsibility. CFO Roy suggested that the commissioners may want to consider striking the last sentence or putting it in its own bullet point because it's in the bullet point dealing with the Hancock County visit and that representative would be representing Hancock County and would be covered by Hancock County anyway, he believed that the last sentence should be part of a bullet but its own bullet in itself.
- Commissioner Joy stated that he was going through these reading them out loud, and would also like to know if anyone has any input as we go or if they notice anything that they do or don't want to be responsible for as we perhaps try to implement the policy.
- Commissioner Joy stated that this gets into schedules, if we are going to approve someone, I think if they are logged in through Time Traks/Clock Traks, at this point Commissioner Joy asked CFO Roy if he logged in through Time Traks or something else. CFO Roy stated that we use Clock Traks so that it doesn't bring any red flags up. Clock Traks is a derivative of Time Traks and it works with the Time Traks system. CFO Roy stated that one of the things that the commissioners needed to be very cautious of under #10 is that there may be some requirements that augment the schedule; the schedule may be agreed upon but the next week it gets changed due to whatever reason which then leads into #11, which he has a couple of comments on #11. Being vague, as you are on this, is good but the problem is that an employee may not be able to agree on a certain type of schedule due to unforeseen circumstances and not be able to meet #10. Commissioner Joy stated, that with notification, he felt that the commissioners could change schedules, but it was his opinion that the employee should have a set schedule to begin with.
- CFO Roy stated that, first off, this paragraph is just dealing with non-exempt, nowhere in this agreement have you dealt with exempt employees; Second, "the telecommuting employees will be held to a higher standard of compliance than office based employees due to the nature of the work arrangement." CFO Roy stated that this is a statement that cannot be measured because you don't have a way of evaluating office employees vs. non office employees, that is extremely subjective and you may want to tighten that up. CFO Roy stated that "at the end, unfortunately under Fair Labor Standards and under Maine State Law, if an employee works overtime, you are required to pay that overtime especially if he is logging in and out of Time Trak, either approved or not approved, then it becomes a disciplinary action, but you cannot withhold someone's pay that has worked those hours. Commissioner Brown stated "why would we approve overtime, we are approving a schedule so if there is overtime involved to a non-exempt employee, why wouldn't we pay it, we approved the schedule." Commissioner Brown stated that he knows for himself that if he is going to approve someone to telecommunicate he is going to say "look we are going to approve someone to telecommunicate for 40 hours a week or 30 hours a week and there is not going to be any overtime with that. Commissioner Joy stated that, in his opinion, what this paragraph is saying is that if an employee says for two weeks in a row that they worked 52 hours, we probably would pay it because we have to but we would cease the telecommuting agreement; that's what it says in that sentence. Commissioner Joy understood that it may say non-payment, but if we have an agreement that we are not going to have you work overtime and it would be explicit in that document, we would have to pay it, but it would cease the telecommuting agreement. CFO reiterated his opinion that the non-payment of overtime language should be removed and not limiting to the elimination of the telecommuting agreement would apply, to say that you are not going to pay them would be a violation. Commissioner Brown pointed out that the policy states "failure to comply with this requirement can result in the non-payment of overtime, or immediate cessation of the telecommuting agreement. He reiterated the use of the word or in the sentence. Commissioner Joy stated that if the commissioners set the schedule and the employee chooses to work beyond the schedule, he is not sure that the commissioners are approving that. Commissioner Joy stated that he understood what CFO was talking about but he was not that excited about removing it either; with regards to #11 we do need to set a specific schedule for any employee who is telecommuting. CFO Roy reiterated that #11 only deals with non-exempt employees, Commissioner Joy replied, "no it does not, what I would say is that we can set it for any employee who is doing telecommuting."
- CFO Roy questioned why the commissioners would ever have the 4th bullet dealing with tax and other legal implications, because once you notify the employee, which by the way the OFA cannot give tax advice, we don't and we will not, why would the commissioners want to take that and get involved? CFO Roy stated that he would absolutely 100 million percent strike that whole line or bullet due to the fact that it is not the county's responsibility to advise any employee on any tax implications. Commissioner Brown stated that this relieves the employer/county of any liabilities for the employee in a zoned area, who operates a business out of there, his thought was that it "puts the sole responsibility of reporting to the IRS, State and Local Government restrictions on operating a commercial or business out of a zoned area or something like that." CFO Roy stated that he thought that it should have its own bullet and state that the county is not responsible adding that in leaving it where it is the commissioners are taking on full responsibility for a satellite office. Commissioner Brown stated that is something the commissioners would have to deal with. Commissioner Joy stated that the purpose for having the bullet in the document was that if the employee decides that they are going to deduct that they have a have a home office on their taxes, the county is saying that they will have no responsible for that, and we are making you aware that if you want to try to do that, that is solely up to you, we are not 1099ing it we are not telling you whether you can or you cannot, we are just saying that is up to you (the employee) if you want to do it. CFO Roy asked how the commissioners would determine (he didn't finish his sentence) and questioned how they were going to get three county commissioners to agree as they cannot agree on what full-time status means. Commissioner Joy stated that that was why the three commissioners were sitting there now talking about this policy.
- No comment was made.
- CFO Roy stated that Time Trax and Clock Trax are all part of a unit, Clock Trax communicates with Time Trax and Time Trax is not put on any employees machine. CFO Roy asked how the commissioners were going to measure this because we don't have an evaluation process in-house. Commissioner Blasi stated “we certainly do.” Commissioner Joy stated that we have an annual evaluation and also; the difference in telecommuting and working in an office is that I can see in-office personnel talking on the phone, they can be seen supervising, and doing work, whereas at home I cannot see you do anything. He felt that this was the difference in the two work environments. CFO Roy stated "I won't disagree with you but my question is that it says here that you will be compared to in-office personnel and evaluated, there is no way of comparing." Commissioner Brown stated that he did not see where it said "compared" adding that he did not think they were comparing anyone to anything. CFO Roy read the following "Evaluation of telecommuter performance will be consistent with that received by the employee(s) working at the office" He used the word compared rather than consistent. Commissioner Brown clarified that the word used was compared and stated that CFO Roy was taking the whole sentence out of context. Commissioner Joy stated that he thought it was not in comparison to another employee, it's in comparison to the job that was done by that employee at work and now by that person at home; it's not comparing them to another employee it is just comparing the job performance of that same employee in two different environments.
- CFO Roy stated that this is repeated above. Commissioner Joy, you have to decide how much you are going to communicate, is the chairman and that employee going to talk weekly about what is done, what wasn't done? CFO Roy stated that should be spelled out, is that county commissioners plural or a single commissioner. The commissioners would have to designate a contact person, that is why it has to be plural; its approved by the commissioners.
- /17. CFO Roy stated that these are repeated and #17 contradicts #4 above. #4 is at the request of the county commissioners or the telecommuter. #17 is at the discretion of the employer. Commissioner Joy stated that there are two different things here, #4 is at either the request or the telecommuter or the county commissioners; he stated that the county commissioners are not giving up their ability to say "we are not doing this anymore." #4 is if the employee says "I'm ready to come back to work so I'm requesting that we end the telecommuting or if the county commissioners decide to do that, they may." Commissioner Brown stated that #17 gives you a time for notice. Commissioner Joy stated that #17 clarifies that this is a agreement between both but we have not given up our ability to say "we are not doing this anymore." #17 is more specific to that; #4 is more specific for an employee who say's they are not going to telecommute, that they are not going to work, that they are going to just take sick leave. They have to request it as well, they might like to be paid and still continue to work, he thought the two were very different.
Commissioner Joy stated that Time Traks/Clock Traks should be added under #14 and “the employee(s)” should be modified.
CFO questioned the commissioner responsibility of #8 & #12 and suggested removing or separating the tax liability in #12. Regarding #8, Commissioner Joy questioned, the home work site, does that include the entire home or the home office. CFO Roy stated that in visiting the home office, if it is determined that the desk is too low, it is the county's responsibility to determine any special needs of the employee and if so address it at this time. The environment may not be determined to be acceptable due to other factors within the home. CFO Roy stated that the commissioners are responsible for the ergonomics of the home site. Commissioner Brown stated that if the site is not approved, then the agreement would not be signed. If modifications are agreed upon, then the parties will work toward that end. Commissioner Joy stated that he was not saying that the county is going to set someone up in an ergonomic office.
With regards to tax and other legal implications, Commissioner Joy stated that the commissioners are only making the telecommuter aware, that it is up to the employee to investigate that, we are not saying that they do or don’t. If they say “is this the county’s office or a home office” we are going to say it’s your home office, you may be able to do this, it’s up to you. We are looking for hazards, not what you are going to do in your temporary arrangements.
MOTION: to make the change to Time Traks/Clock Trak and the employee(s) in the Telecommuting Policy. (Joy/Blasi 3-0, motion passed) Discussion: Commissioner Brown stated that this (policy) has been vetted by our attorney more than once.
Commissioner Joy stated that it is time to meet with CFO Roy about his telecommuting and he would like to meet next week, it doesn't matter if they do it by phone or meet at the office; if the commissioners are going to come up with a Telecommuting Agreement, in the CFO's case, Commissioner Joy stated that he thought that it they had to come up with an agreement, that is the next thing that he wanted to discuss today adding that "it is you now specific and really without any, if we do discussed it, it has to be Phil's here and without any healthcare implications, that sort of thing, without anything specific about that." Commissioner Joy asked the commissioners what they wanted to do, do we want to use the telecommuting policy or not. Commissioner Joy stated that attendees in the room included Clerk DePrenger and Director Sankey and the commissioners. Commissioner Joy stated that a discussion will take place and he thought it will take place in public. Commissioner Brown stated "I think I would like to be here for that conversation." CFO Roy suggested that the board chairman initiate the conversations and try to get it down to the next week or so to some kind of agreement and then bring the commissioners on board because once you have more than one commissioner and there is a discussion, there could be a decision could be made and that is not necessarily in the best interest of the commissioners, possibly. Commissioner Joy stated that in some cases all commissioners would like to make the decision and it may be in executive session with the results reported out and the agreement would be public.
A draft agreement form has been drawn to begin the process; during the application meeting the parties will try to agree to schedules and reporting, that sort of thing. CFO Roy questioned if the home visit would take place first prior to moving forward, Commissioner Joy stated not necessarily as we may not reach agreement for a telecommuting situation.
A special meeting was scheduled for November 19th at 3:30 p.m. to discuss implementing a Telecommuting Agreement with CFO Roy. This may be done in executive session as CFO Roy stated that he will ask that the discussion in executive session; Commissioner Joy stated that he thinks that it can be one in public.
Commissioner Joy stated that the agreement should be made first and then the home inspection would follow, if it is unacceptable, then the agreement gets voided, the last piece is pending the inspection of the work environment.
Clerk DePrenger distributed a recently received bill from Rudman Winchell regarding consulting services for the Hancock Wind project. Commissioner Joy suggested figuring out how much was paid for the TIF and Community Benefit prior to paying this bill. CFO Roy has reached out to First Wind to see if they will pay this bill. Commissioner Joy stated that if $20,000 was spent the first time, we should never pay $20,000 a second time, this is a discussion between us and Rudman & Winchell. $25,000 was paid in attorney fees for the first project. The total in attorney fees for the Hancock Wind Project, year to date, is approximately $19,000. Commissioner Joy stated that we now have the bill, we need to find out if this is the final bill and we need to find out if First Wind is going to pay it. CFO Roy stated, if the application to DECD has not been filed, then this is not the final bill. Commissioner Joy stated that the question should be, are you paying up to $25,000 as you did last time?
MOTION: to adjourn. (Blasi/Joy 3-0, motion passed)