Officer duties discussed
During its regular meeting on May 28, the Washington County Communications Commission is being asked to appoint a communications officer to serve as a liaison between the commission and the county. The question is who will fill that role.
Since the first 28E agreement the duties of communications officer have fallen to the Washington County Sheriff. This year, the commission is wondering if communications supervisor Cara Sorrells would be a better fit for the role than Sheriff Jerry Dunbar. Dunbar had been serving as the officer since being elected sheriff. The commission confirmed him as the officer each time he was reelected. After being reelected last year, the commission hasn’t confirmed him as the communications officer. About two meetings ago, it was recommended at a commission meeting that Sorrells take over as communications officer.
“Someone said if you look at the communications officer job description and the communications supervisor description, it seems like Cara is doing the job of the communications officer,” committee member Jack Seward said.
The commission’s personnel and operations committee met this morning to discuss the appointment. It determined to recommend the commission select an officer. It also determined that the job description of the officer be studied and updated.
As of the last confirmation, Dunbar was communications officer, Sorrells was the communications supervisor, and Teresa Todd is the assistant communications supervisor.
Committee chairman Ryan Miller said that the communications supervisor is in charge of day-to-day operations of the communications department and the communications officer is the liaison between the commission and the communications department.
“What is has boiled down to is as far as employee matters go, I’m the person who steps in,” Dunbar said. “Cara can kind of put the heat on me if she needs to as far as getting disciplinary matters done.”
Seward went over some of the duties of communications officer. Some of the duties included attending the meetings, receiving information recommendations about equipment, and written job descriptions for employees. The communications officer is required in the 28E agreement setting the communications commission.
“When is the last time you made a written recommendation for what job descriptions should be,” Seward asked Dunbar.
Dunbar said that Sorrells is a communications commission employee and he believed the communications officer is supposed to be a county employee. Miller asked if the communications officer is supposed to be an elected official.
Committee member Bob Shepherd said that the elected status of a communications officer has been an area of question. He said in the past, the county attorney had given the opinion that the officer could not be an elected official, because then it would be a position of one elected official telling other elected officials what to do.
“We overlooked that recommendation for that first time when we were trying to get things back to working level,” he said. “It’s not mentioned in our 28E — designating any specific individual.”
He said when the 28E was updated, the officer could be the sheriff. He said that the word on the agreement was never “shall.”
Dunbar said that he had been more involved when he was first appointed officer. He asked the commission what the expectations of the commission for the officer are. He hasn’t attended at least the last two communications commission meetings. Shepherd said that he knew Dunbar had been busy recently, which he said is a concern.
“Like I told you many years ago, if we appoint you as the officer, that is who we expect to see,” Shepherd said. “It is an individual thing. It isn’t a department.”
Shepherd said that he felt the duties were as a liaison — someone knowledgeable who can bring information to the commission.