County payroll departments to return to understaffed auditor-comptroller’s office – Times-Standard


After three hours of back-and-forth around the operational realignment of the county’s payroll services, the Humboldt County Supervisory Board voted to transfer payroll functions from human resources to the auditor-comptroller’s office.

The discussion included a timeline of events leading up to Tuesday’s decision.

Supervisors approved the transition of the payroll function from the auditor-comptroller’s office to human resources in November 2018 based on a report from Cooperative Personnel Services HR Consulting which found that the auditor-comptroller’s staff was not performing his duties.

Two years later, supervisors held a special meeting to discuss grievances about the auditor-comptroller’s office and delays in payments, transfers and account reconciliations that put millions of county dollars at risk. During the meeting of November 23, 2020, the board of directors asked human resources to “come back with the job classification work, the potential recommendations for realigning operations and the analysis of a potential staffing study” , according to the staff report.

In December 2020, the Board of Directors authorized a professional services agreement with Macias Gini and O’Connell LLP to facilitate a study of the staff of the Auditor-Comptroller’s office with the aim of identifying long-term and sustainable solutions, explained Human Resources Director Linda Le.

Linda Le (Screenshot)

“Through working with MGO, we conducted a review of 12 rating agencies. The review indicates that 10 of the 12 counties we studied… the payroll resides in the auditor-comptroller’s office, ”Le said. “We also conducted a statewide survey: 49 counties responded for a total response rate of 85%. Of the 49 counties, the payroll functions of 48 counties reside in the office of the auditor.

Scott Johnson, an MGO partner, noted that it is “no coincidence that the payroll functions reside in the finance department or, in the county’s case, the auditor-comptroller’s office” because staff have accounting expertise.

“They are more aligned with tax and audit requirements; they understand the need for strong internal control and segregation of duties; they deal with regulatory payments and regulatory bodies such as the Internal Revenue Agency and payroll reporting requirements, ”he said.

Start the transition

Humboldt County Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez said she was contacted by Le’s office five weeks ago to help with payroll processing.

“In doing so, we were able to identify weak points where we did not have cross-training, weak points where we were perhaps skipping an essential step in the payroll process and which inspired us to continue this teamwork. she said. “… We were able to update our instructions and become better experts in our own processes while also understanding what our partner departments are doing on their side as well. “

The presented the Board of Directors with three options for realigning payroll services.

  • Refer the payroll function to the auditor’s office.
  • Place the payroll functions with the auditor-controller for a six-month pilot project.
  • Maintain payroll processing within County Human Resources.

Le and Paz Dominguez urged the board to move payroll services to the auditor-comptroller’s office.

County directors speak out

Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Director Connie Beck expressed frustration that she was not told about the five weeks of training that had taken place around the payroll transition.

“There is a huge lack of collaboration,” she said. “… I support our payroll and finance staff with their recommendations and they are concerned about the transition. In a perfect world I think that makes sense and (shifting the payroll to) the auditor-comptroller’s office makes sense, but our county government, our financial system doesn’t live in a perfect world right now.

Humboldt County Public Works Director Tom Mattson agreed payroll functions should be part of the auditor-comptroller’s office, but said Paz Dominguez would need staff and resources first. adequate.

“Please make sure that the appropriate resources are allocated to the office of the auditor, hand it over definitively to the office of the auditor and, please, open the collaboration to all our financial managers,” he said. declared. “We hired them for a reason. They know the finances, right, left, top to bottom. I have every confidence in my assistant manager about her skills, they just want to be included in the changes that are underway. “

Regina Fuller, deputy director of the sheriff’s office, said she was “incredibly happy” that the auditor’s office and human resources collaborated to make the change, but criticized both departments for leaving the rest of the county staff “in the dark”. “

Fuller shared a letter signed by several county directors and deputy directors urging the board to carefully consider the payroll transition.

“While the operational realignment recommendation to shift payroll to the auditor-comptroller’s office may make the most sense on paper, the current understaffing in the HQ office makes this recommendation of deep concern at this time.” , she read. “… We hope that another interim solution can be found to stabilize the payroll and delay its transfer to the HQ office until HQ staffing capacity has improved so that ” they can catch up with essential financial tasks and be able to respond to staff inquiries in a timely manner.

Moving forward

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone acknowledged staff’s frustration at not being included, but praised Le and Paz Dominguez for their collaborative efforts.

“When everyone’s on deck for five weeks just to do payroll… it’s no surprise to me that other efforts and communication have had to wait a bit,” he said, noting his support for the transfer of payroll functions to the auditor. controller’s office.

District 1 Supervisor Rex Bohn noted that there were still “a lot of issues” to be resolved.

“Why is everything fixed now in the past five weeks?” I mean, we’re at Disneyland now, it looks like everything is perfect, ”he said.

Speaking on behalf of MGO, Johnson said: “I’m not saying everything is fine,” but said a lot of progress has been made since December 2020.

“There is still work to be done,” he says. “Regarding the recommendation for the movement, it is because of the risk in which the county has been involved and the issue of segregation of duties, lack of internal control, lack of subject matter expertise in accounting.”

He added that what we are currently working on “is the right model and I professionally believe that this model should continue.”

After another hour of discussion, District 2 Supervisor Michelle Bushnell made a motion to follow the staff recommendation to move payroll services to the Comptroller-Auditor’s office on September 5 and requested a bi-weekly report from the Comptroller- listener.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson has requested that the motion be amended and that the bi-weekly report come from HR in order to alleviate the workload of Pax Dominguez. Bushnell disagreed with Wilson’s suggestion, noting that she wanted to hear from Paz Dominguez specifically to make sure salary tasks don’t affect her workload.

Wilson and Bushnell agreed on a joint report from the two departments and agreed to go ahead with the motion.

The motion was passed 4-1 with Bohn disagreeing.

Isabella Vanderheiden can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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