Sheriff's Office reorganization to be revisited after legal hurdle found

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WALLA WALLA — A legal roadblock will force Walla Walla County commissioners to readdress a proposed reorganization of appointed officers in the Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioners will hold a special meeting Friday regarding a motion they approved this week to delegate authority to Sheriff John Turner to set salaries in his office for five appointed positions.

The meeting will be at 8 a.m. in the commissioner’s chambers at the county Public Health and Legislative Building, 314 W. Main St.

The motion by Commissioner Greg Tompkins was to allow Turner to set salaries for five appointed positions in his office “as he sees fit.”

The positions are for chief operations deputy, chief administrative deputy, chief corrections deputy, administrative assistant and administrative secretary.

However, Commission Chairman Jim Johnson said today a review of the motion by the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office turned up a problem.

“It appears as though the motion does not conform to the RCW (Revised Code of Washington),” Johnson said.

According to state law, it is not within the power of the Sheriff’s Office to set salaries; that must be done by county commissioners, he said.

Because he is not going to be at the commissioners’ regular meeting next week, a special meeting had to be set Friday to get the matter settled, Johnson said.

The reorganization proposed by Turner will leave the undersheriff’s position vacant and instead use the salary for the post to increase the salary of Chief Administrative Deputy Shanda Zessin from about $66,900 a year to $80,669, add the position of administrative secretary and increase the hours for an administrative assistant position.

Johnson said if the proposed reorganization plan and salaries are reaffirmed by commissioners at Friday’s meeting, it should not affect their direction to county Auditor Karen Martin to prepare a budget amendment to reduce the sheriff’s budget by $13,200, the amount Turner said his proposed reorganization would save in salaries.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

Comments

cropcircles 6 months, 1 week ago

If the commissioners agree to this increase in salaries what will stop other elected officials from doing the same. No one gets a 20percent increase. there has to be some compelling reason to increase a persons salary that much. Turner has not done that. Turner already said that Zessin doesn't have the education and training to be the undersherriff, so why give her the salary of one? From what I've read, Freyer did alot of things for the sherriffs office. If that's true, then Turner should replace that position. If Turner doesn't fill that position, then who will do what the undersheriff does. Don't give someone more money to do a job that they're already doing. Maybe she has taken on a few more responsibilities, but those responsibilties are not law enforcement. The commissioners should recommend Turner fill the undersheriff position with someone qualified to do the job. There must be someone left in Turner's California circle of friends that wants to move to walla Walla.

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writewinger 6 months ago

When now Sheriff Turner was running for this position he represented himself to be a Republican...possibly in order to get elected? It seems his actions place him more in the category of being a RINO...at least from the standpoint of being a conservative when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. As I recall, when he brought his friend Eddie Freyer to Walla Walla, he implied that the Undersheriff Position was critical to the operations of his Department. Now that Mr. Freyer has apparently moved on to other pastures, the position is no longer nearly as important, but rather than relinquishing/returning the $100,000 plus dollars to the taxpayers for other uses, decisions were made to make an unreasonable increase of one position salary and establish a new one...just to be able to use up the Budget. After reading Sheriff Turner's attorney speak explanation of the reasons for his decision, must admit I was not convinced they are justified. I do not understand how one's existing job responsibilities could possibly be increased to justify the salary increase proposed for Shanda Zessin...unless she has previously had a lot of non-productive time. Will she now have law enforcement duties? Now that it has been concluded the Sheriff cannot legally establish employee salaries, I hope the Commissioners will not rush their decision on this issue. They must keep the taxpayers best interests in mind. Public Employee salaries and benefits keep spiraling upward and surely lead to bankruptcy as has and is happening in other parts of the country. It is my understanding Shanda Zessin lives in the State of Oregon and while I do not know her, have no personal animosity toward her, cannot fault her for taking advantage of the system and am sure she is very good on her job, I do feel some resentment...or maybe it's envy! If this huge increase in her salary is implemented, the only real beneficiaries will be Shanda, the State of Oregon and Umatilla County.... no Washington or Walla Walla County property taxes or sales taxes. Just doesn't seem right to me! Maybe the Commissioners need to take a look at that? Insofar as Sheriff Turner is concerned, based on the many negative darts he has thrown at previous administrative practices, procedures and employees, it makes one wonder if we have ever had any Sheriff Department protection in our County prior to his being elected.. His comments remind me of someone else in a pretty high level position!!

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