New-job request stirs hot debate

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COEUR d'ALENE — A request for a new position at Kootenai County erupted into a war of words Wednesday.

Commissioner Bob Bingham, known for diving deep into data to develop decisions, brought forth his request for a new research and financial analyst position for other commissioners to consider.

With County Clerk Jim Brannon in attendance — and his department already tasked with supplying financial information to county leaders — the discussion quickly became testy.

"It is the job of the auditor to track this budget and control the data of our county," Brannon told Bingham in a loud voice.

The county is in the midst of hammering out its budget for the next fiscal year, and Bingham alluded to not receiving data from the Clerk's Office in a timely fashion so he can make informed decisions.

"I'm busy enough with the duties of being a commissioner ... It takes time to dive into that stuff," said Bingham, adding he has spent early morning hours doing research.

Brannon said he does not support the position because his office already does that work.

"My statutory duties would be largely ignored (if the position is approved)," he said after the meeting.

Dena Darrow, the county's finance director, said compensation for the position, including benefits, would be $79,499. She said if the person performs financial analysis, it would have to be vetted by the Auditor's Office, which would require creating another position.

"(Data vetting) is my responsibility," Darrow said.

Bingham said he wasn't sure if he agrees with such reasoning to create another position.

Before he was elected, Bingham said, he didn't support creating such a job.

"It appeared to me another layer of government," he said, adding he now sees how valuable the position would be to make better financial decisions. "Not a day goes by in which I don't want more (data) to be dived into."

Bingham said he believes it comes down to whether you think education is important for decisions to be made.

Commissioner Marc Eberlein said he hasn't had a need for such a position.

"Our decisions are made at a high level, not down in the weeds," Eberlein said, adding if commissioners need more information they can rely on department heads for it. "Is it an absolute need to do my job? I don't think so."

Commissioner Chris Fillios appeared to try to calm the mood of the meeting and requested further discussions on the matter.

"It's a tough call," Fillios said. "I can see the need (for the position), but I also hear the cries for (salary) increases."

Fillios told Bingham: "Believe me, I can see the value of the work you've done (with research)."

Fillios said he thinks more time is needed to mend relationships on the matter.

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