All Politics is Local

‘Favoritism, cronyism and pressure to conform’ are evident to county employees

Despite being generally satisfied with their jobs, Clark County employees say they view the county as “an increasingly political organization where favoritism, cronyism and pressure to conform appear to influence how policies and procedures may be implemented,” according to a work environment survey.

The county released the findings last week in its “FYI Online” newsletter, a vehicle that’s typically dedicated to promoting county programs and workplace issues. The study found that employees were skeptical of the county’s ability to “negotiate honestly and keep commitments to its employees.”

Conducted by Armando X. Estrada, an industrial psychologist for the Department of Defense, the study is the third of its kind that the county has conducted since 2008. The most recent study measured how employees viewed several issues within the county, including cohesion, inclusion and organizational climate.

“Across the board, there are signs of concerns,” Estrada concluded, according to the county’s newsletter.

Top concerns for employees include fairness with regard to compensation as well as promotion and a lack of cohesion among top leaders, a list that includes directors, deputy directors and elected leaders. No names were included with the survey, however.

Other key findings show that minority employees feel they are harassed more frequently than their coworkers. Women feel they’re subjected to sexism at a higher rate than men, 12.8 percent to 4.8 percent. The highest rate of harassment was reported among the county’s non-heterosexual employees, 26.5 percent of whom said they’d been subjected to negative remarks or behavior. It’s important to point out that only 4 percent of county employees characterize themselves as not heterosexual.

The survey presents a peek inside a governmental organization that, for the past year and a half, has seen several of its senior-most employees quit. Those names include Bill Barron as county administrator, Bronson Potter as senior deputy prosecuting attorney, Kelly Sills as economic development director, Glen Olson as deputy county administrator, Pete Capell as public works director and Jim Dickman as budget director, among others.

Estrada’s report also outlines several ways in which the county might be able to improve employee morale. They include considering how to incorporate employee input into organizational decision making and conducting periodic trainings on performance evaluations.

It wasn’t all bad news. The study also found that current employees view their jobs more favorably than alternatives and are not likely to quit. Estrada presented his findings to county employees at a presentation in late July.

Tyler Graf

I started working for The Columbian in 2012 and currently cover Clark County. I'm a 2007 graduate of The University of Oregon. Contact me at tyler.graf@columbian.com

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