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November 17, 2013

County reviews elected officials compliance with employee policies

CLAREMORE — The Rogers County Commissioners will continue discussions Monday regarding compliance issues with employee policies.

Two elected officials became subjects of discussion this week after hiring and firing employees without following human resource procedures.

Rogers County Assessor Scott Marsh was questioned by the commissioners Thursday in a special meeting about following the county’s hiring procedures.

Another issue follows the discussion as Rogers County Clerk Robin Anderson terminated an employee Thursday without the assistance of Human Resource Director Jenny Bentley.

Bentley refused comment on the matter.

Records obtained by the Progress show the employee contacted Bentley Wednesday about being “targeted, bullied and harassed,” and working in a “hostile” environment.

The employee requested an investigation and meeting with Bentley.

The issue remains under review and no official statement has been released at this time.

Bentley wrote the handbook last year and has conducted several training sessions to insure all employees understand the procedures.

Each elected official signed off on the handbook and the policies before moving into the new courthouse in March.

Marsh hired a new commercial appraiser without having the employee complete the required paperwork and drug testing.

“Each elected official shall be responsible for coordinating the hiring and/or appointing of the employees in his/her office with human resources,” according to the Rogers County Employee Handbook.

Commissioners Mike Helm and Kirt Thacker met Tuesday with Assistant District Attorney David Iski about the issue during their weekly meeting.

Commissioner Dan DeLozier recused himself from the discussion.

“This is a potential problem, Mr. Marsh has been told once, he has not followed hiring policy,” Thacker said.

Helm questioned the elected officials authority to violate the handbook’s policies.

Iski spoke to the board about the liability involved in hiring an employee without following the correct procedure, including background checks and drug testing.

“The county now has its collective neck in a noose,” Iski said. “Until those things are done they are not guaranteed employment.”

The commissioners determined the new employee would be considered “provisional” until the requirements were completed.

Bentley was not present at the meeting, but documents show she had been working with Marsh on the matter prior to new appraiser’s employment.

On Thursday the board met again on the issue and Marsh apologized for not following the procedures.

“I was in a hurry to get an employee into start the job,” Marsh said. “I do realize it is important to follow the guidelines. I made a mistake.”

Helm said the county implemented the employee handbook to limit insurance liability.

Thacker sent a letter Thursday to all elected officials explaining if they acted outside the employee handbook they would be personally liable for any issue, which could arise from such action.

Documents show Marsh had properly posted and advertised the job with Bentley’s assistance. Multiple applications were reviewed and interviews were held for the position.

Marsh’s error was made after the employee was selected for employment, according to the discussion.

Monday the commissioners will meet with Bentley in executive session. The exact issues to be discussed have not been listed on the agenda as required by law.

Anderson denied comment on the details of the employee’s termination stating only she always follows the proper procedure.

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