Commission rejects hiring new Human Resources director

On Thursday, Dec. 14, the Lander County Commission discussed hiring Elizabeth Barela to fill the position of human resources (HR) director for the county. The board voted not to fill the position, as it was not publicly advertised.

Executive Director Kieth Westengard admitted to misunderstanding what the commission wanted when it came to advertising for the position. During the Oct. 12 commission meeting, the board decided the position would be re-advertised publicly.

“During a previous meeting it was said to take the position back out for advertisement, so I took that as to start from scratch. I then posted internally per our policies and procedures,” Westengard explained to the commission, “When you (the commission) said to go back out for advertisement, it wasn't specific, and I took that as to start over the process.”

Commissioner Judie Allan said she did not specify to go out for publication, but the intent of her motion was for the position to go out to the public. Westengard instead took her motion and opened the position internally, where the county selected Barela as the preferred choice for the job title.

“I worked with Barela for a long time in both private and governmental settings. I have watched her acquire the human resources education and skills while in human resources with the district attorney’s office,” stated Hy Forgeron in support of Barela, “I know without a doubt, she has the ability to perform in the office you (commission) have an opening for.”

Westengard received two applicants for the position, including a previous applicant who was already denied by the commission and Barela. Commissioner Sean Bakker finished the discussion by making a motion.

“We have had this conversation and we should have gone out for public advertisement. So I am going to make this real easy. I will make a motion to go back out for advertisement in the public and every other agency and avenue we have to go out for,” Bakker said.

The commission voted in favor of Bakker’s motion. Commissioner Doug Mills gave the sole dissenting vote. The majority rejected Barela for the HR director position, so it will instead be advertised to the public. Barela is still able to apply for the job, but will have to be approved by the commission before officially being hired.