Administrator, county council agree to part ways
by Charli Engelhorn
staff writer
Oct 27, 2011 | 2260 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Grand County Council will be without an administrator beginning Nov. 18. Council members approved 4-2 a resolution last week to exercise the council’s right not to renew the county council administrator’s employment agreement based on “restructuring of the position.” Melinda Brimhall, the current council administrator, said the decision was mutual.

Brimhall said the discussions about the status and future of her job began a year ago, after what she referred to as significant personal attacks against her from a number of county elected officials.

“After the dust settled from those events, I started asking how I can truly be effective in my position and duties in an unsupported and threatening environment,” Brimhall said. “Whether it is inadequate policies or conflicting personalities, my belief is that this is an end result of a work environment that allows the administrator to be caught in the crossfires between elected officials and the council.”

Brimhall is the seventh administrator to be hired by the county since citizens voted in 1992 to change the form of county government. Brimhall assumed the role of county council administrator in the fall of 2009, after working as a management analyst in the city manager’s office in Casa Grande, Ariz. At the time she was hired, Brimhall made a verbal commitment to stay for two years, she said.

“Despite the issues, it was important to me to maintain that commitment to the department heads and the community,” Brimhall said. “My main goal in coming here was to leave it a better place than when I found it. I think I’ve still been able to accomplish that.”

Council chairman Chris Baird said at the Oct. 18 meeting that ending Brimhall’s contract is a mutually beneficial decision. He added that the county will restructure the position to better conform to modern state codes.

“State statute clearly outlines the executive responsibilities of the council,” Baird said. “As we progress in the coming months, it will be important how we establish as a council how every item of our executive responsibilities will be fulfilled and spell out in policy what the duties of the administrator are… so it can be a functional position.”

Council members Audrey Graham and Ken Ballantyne voted against the action, stating their disappointment with the county council for allowing the problems between the council administrator and other elected officials to reach this point.

“I’m still ashamed that we have not been able to figure this out as a county and a team to protect the taxpayer dollars and figure out how to keep an administrator here in full respect and authority that is needed to fulfill what the council, who were elected by the public, want to have done,” said Graham. “I’m very grateful to Melinda… and I’m ashamed of us.”

“I’m ashamed,” added Ballantyne. “This is just not right.”

Baird offered his appreciation to Brimhall during the meeting and said it was a “tough decision” all around.

Brimhall said she is not sure what her next step will be, but she will be leaving the Moab area after completing her final month as council administrator. She will be given six months’ severance pay as part of the agreement.

“I would not be participating in this decision if I thought it would be detrimental to the county,” Brimhall said. “I’m not sure what the next step is, but I believe my experience and time here has been a positive contribution to my career and resume, and I believe I have a bright future ahead of me.”

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