Deputy Commissioner

Commissioner Hart-Stebbins apparently has a problem… She doesn’t think that it’s a good idea for a Commissioner to include their full-time Deputy Commissioner in important meetings with elected officials particularly when those officials are in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t see how my assistant’s travel benefits the taxpayer,” said Stebbins.  (KRQE)

Perhaps it’s true that taking an Assistant on a trip to meet with important government officials does not benefit the taxpayer, but taking a Deputy Commissioner on that same trip most certainly does.

It all comes down to the role played by the person involved and whether or not a Commissioner empowers that person or uses them do research and write scripts for meetings. My Deputy Commissioner is an integral part of my office. I give her the authority to act on my behalf to solve constituent problems and to work with staff. We work together to craft everything from legislation to editorials. We truly work as a team and she’s on the front line. It’s critical that she know and understand the positions of our office and be a part of almost every meeting of importance.

Those of you who have worked with my office know what an outstanding job Karen does every day. I am fortunate to have someone of such tremendous energy and talent. And quite frankly, if I was planning to return to Washington D.C. for a set of important meetings she would be a part of those meetings.

His colleagues said expensing an assistant’s travel is uncommon. Commissioner Michael Wiener said the move was “surprising” and “unprecedented.” (KRQE)

My decision to take my Deputy shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone because I took my previous Deputy last year. His role was to introduce me – “the new guy” – to our Washington delegation, their staffs and the County lobbyist. The reason he knew Washington was he had accompanied his previous boss – Commissioner Brasher – to Washington.

Understand, the decision to take my Deputy to D.C. was mine. Yes, the County Manager signs off on all travel but in reality it’s highly unlikely that he wouldn’t give his approval. After all, the Manager works at the pleasure of the Commission. It’s probably not the best of ideas to withhold approval.

 So what’s the difference between last year and this year? There are really only two differences – timing and the fact that my new Deputy is not a man.

One of my colleagues decided that this was a good time to try to get to me and didn’t think twice about dragging my Deputy Commissioner through the mud to do it. Dropping this story into the swirling cauldron of innuendo created by the Michael Wiener photos was intended to paint me with the same brush. It didn’t matter to them that their shot at me was also aimed at my Deputy Commissioner.

While matters of how I spend my taxpayer funded budget are certainly matters for legitimate discussion, attempting to create a false impression through innuendo is not. I am fortunate that KRQE’s Katie Kim did her job and did it well. Otherwise a story that is about my travel budget could have been very damaging to someone who should be off limits. My Deputy Commissioner isn’t a public official, she’s a public employee. I’m fair game, but as long as she does her job and follows County policy she should not be.

How Commissioners use their office budget including travel and how they use their assistant is up them. If they want an Assistant, they can use their almost $52,000 a year to hire an Assistant. I want a Deputy Commissioner and I’ve hired an exceptional one.