Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sun Valley: Staff morale is high

Mayor, chief assistant say city is working through troubled times


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

The senior administrators of the city of Sun Valley are hoping that strife at City Hall, above, is on the decline. Photo by Willy Cook

Though the city of Sun Valley is currently understaffed and employees are facing the imminent completion of a forensic audit of the city, the mayor says city staff morale remains high.

But what, exactly, is a forensic audit? During an interview, Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe compared it to an "IRS taxpayer compliance audit."

"It's a thorough analysis of the receiving and expending of all city funds, where everything came from and where everything is going. It's to ascertain if any fraud has occurred."

The long-awaited results of the forensic audit will tell the full story of the many incidents that have shrouded the city in mystery and notoriety since last fall.

These incidents include alleged financial irregularities, break-ins at the fire station resulting in stolen documents and erased files, resignations by city staff members out of protest, city employees being placed on both paid and unpaid administrative leave, lawsuits filed against the city, and countersuits filed by the city.

"Even with the pressure of the forensic audit, the staff still shows up to work every day and is responsive to the vision of Mayor Briscoe," Interim Executive Assistant to the Mayor Virginia Egger said in an interview.

However, morale was not always so high. Since Briscoe took office in January, he and Egger have worked hard to shift the staff's attitudes and morale to create a more functional work place, they said.

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"When I first started, some staff members wouldn't even acknowledge each other," Egger said. "They would come in to pick up their mail and leave without even saying hello to their co-workers.

"The first thing I noticed when I took office was that the parking lot was empty on Fridays," Briscoe said. "The first thing I said was, 'We have a five-day work week.'"

Briscoe said a Sun Valley resident called recently to ask why the city had so many new employees.

"I said that we hadn't increased the staff; they're all just showing up to work now."

Though the results of the forensic audit are not complete, Briscoe's administration has gotten some feedback from the auditors.

"The forensic audit unveiled that Sun Valley was not in compliance with many federal and state labor laws," Briscoe said. "We are now in compliance."

Egger agreed that things are now running more smoothly in Sun Valley.

"My favorite recent comment from an employee is, 'Wow, it's so quiet in here, everyone must be working.'"

Once the complete results of the forensic audit are available, the city will turn over any alleged criminal matters to Blaine County Prosecutor Jim Thomas and Chief Investigator for the Idaho Attorney General Scott Birch. Less-serious errors of "omission and carelessness" will be "handled in-house," according to Briscoe.

"By Labor Day, we want to have 85-90 percent of this behind us. After we get all these things resolved, I hope my staff will really enjoy coming to work," Briscoe said.

The city is currently conducting interviews for the open positions of city clerk and financial manager. The positions could be filled by Labor Day, the mayor said.

"It's hard seeing the city in a negative light on the front page. We are looking forward to positive prominence very soon," Egger said.




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