Columbia County Public Health Director loses job

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DAYTON - Columbia County Public Health Director David Riggs lost his job this morning to help save the department from a budgetary crisis.

Columbia County Commissioner Chuck Reeves said the department suffered a "triple whammy" when two employees were granted extended absences, and other employees shared sick leave with one of the employees.

"A little department can't absorb things like that," Reeves said. About $20,000 is needed to make up the over-expenditures.

Riggs was dismissed because he is the highest-paid employee, with a $48,000 annual income. The services he performed can be provided through contracts, Reeves said.

Reeves had made arrangements by noon today to contract with Walla Walla County for environmental health services.

The decision to terminate Riggs was made by Reeves. Following an executive session at the end of their regular meeting Monday night, commissioners authorized Reeves to carry out the actions he deemed necessary to rein in the budget.

Two public health department employees who have been in the department for "literally decades" will be depended on to have a leadership role, Reeves said. A new director won't be hired before the end of 2010, he said.

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