Temporary employees approved by Franklin County commissioners

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 22, 2014 

Franklin County commissioners approved Wednesday hiring two temporary employees in the auditor's office so full-time workers can learn new software designed to prevent internal thefts.

The new employees will work in accounting but not on the new software, said Auditor Matt Beaton.

But their help will allow current workers to spend more time learning the new system, which commissioners agreed to buy for $1.1 million.

Getting software to prevent theft became a priority after Dennis Huston, the county's former public works accounting and administrative director, was arrested in early 2012 for pocketing more than $2.8 million of county money.

It was the largest public embezzlement case in the state's history, according to the state auditor's office. He was sentenced last March to 16 years in prison.

That pushed the commissioners to invest in the better software system. Beaton said they are replacing a 28-year-old Disc Operating System-based software.

He admitted the transition has taken longer than planned but said it will be comparable to how long it has taken other agencies. He expects the changeover to be done sometime this year.

"It's just a very time-consuming process," he after the meeting. "It's really a remaking of the culture... I've been saying it over and over -- I'd rather get it right than get it fast."

One of the temporary workers will be a new hire who will work for up to 11 months, earning up to $46,000, including benefits, Beaton said. The other replaces an employee who is on medical leave for up to six months, and will earn up to $23,224.

"We need to free up more productivity," Beaton said. "We only have so much time and the business of the county rolls on."

Commissioner Brad Peck asked Beaton to try to spend as little as possible of the money.

Also Wednesday, commissioners:

-- Reluctantly agreed to the transfer of $29,000 to the coroner's office for help while Corner Dan Blasdel is recovering from foot surgery. Peck said he was disappointed Blasdel never explained to the commission where the extra help would come from and the new person's qualifications.

Blasdel, who was in surgery Wednesday, did not want to discuss his medical procedure in a public meeting, County Administrator Fred Bowen said. Blasdel is hoping to return to office duties in two months.

Peck said they did not want to ask about the surgery. He agreed to vote for the money but added he plans to review the office with more scrutiny in the future.

"It is not appropriate for us to allow the coroner's failure to address the board's concerns to preclude us from covering that office," Peck said.

-- Agreed to put a contract change on next week's consent agenda, where several items are approved with one vote, that could help speed up construction on the Franklin County jail.

Project manager Larry Hueter said a change would allow the jail to move its expected completion date ahead by 12 days, which would offset a delay caused by the Franklin Public Utility District's relocation of some switches.

The entire $19.5 million project, including the jail expansion and remodeling of the existing jail, could be finished by Sept. 4 if work can continue on the new jail portion during a 30-day transition period when inmates and staff move into the new building in March, Hueter said. The remodeling of the existing jail will start after the move.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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