Benton County commissioners Monday questioned whether to continue paying the full salary of Benton and Franklin counties' long-time health officer while his hours change to part time.
Dr. Larry Jecha, who is paid to be the health officer and administrator for the Benton-Franklin Health District, is now sharing those responsibilities with Jason Zaccaria, the newly hired health district administrator.
Zaccaria told the commissioners at Monday's meeting in Prosser that Jecha should keep his full pay while the counties work this year toward making the health officer job a part-time position.
Zaccaria said in a July 27 memo that while the counties want to cut the job back to a 0.25 full-time employment (FTE), the health officer job should be 0.6 FTE because of the duties and responsibilities required from a licensed/credentialed medical professional.
Never miss a local story.
Commission Chairman Leo Bowman and Commissioner Jim Beaver said they would like commissioners from both counties to discuss Zaccaria's recommendations.
"This is not acceptable to me. We need to take this to the health board," Bowman said.
Beaver said he, too, was concerned about continuing to pay Jecha's full salary.
But Zaccaria said in his memo that putting Jecha on part-time status created "complications ... with his retirement" because of rules involving the Public Employees Retirement System.
"If he retires from his full-time status, he cannot return as a part-time health officer for a minimum of 30 days. If he cannot stay on ... programs/services may need to be shut down," Zaccaria noted.
Another issue is that it will take at least two months to recruit and hire a replacement health officer and up to two more months to complete paperwork so the new health officer can be credentialed for billing purposes with Medicare, Medicaid and contracted insurance, Zaccaria explained.
Zaccaria said the health district board, which is the six commissioners from Benton and Franklin counties, decided at a July 20 meeting that Sept. 1 would be the date for completing the transition to a part-time health officer.
In other action Monday:
-- Commissioners voted to change their weekly Prosser meetings from Monday mornings to Tuesdays. Also, the order of business for weekly commissioner meetings will have public hearings grouped consecutively, followed by commissioner action and discussion items, then have the weekly workshop matters at the end of the meetings.
Commissioner Shon Small suggested changing their meeting days to Tuesdays. Bowman initially resisted the change, but joined the others in a unanimous vote Monday.
The commissioner meetings will be canceled automatically when a holiday is on a Monday or Tuesday.