The debate over whether water consultant Harry Jones has a contract with the county has boiled into what could become an examination of all the county’s contracts.
Supervisor Shirley Dawson said recently the county has about 60 private and potentially ambiguous contracts that need review.
In June, the situation began simmering when supervisors discussed payments made to Jones, who bills the county for hourly work.
Jones subsequently sent Dawson a 2003 letter in which then-supervisor Ron Christensen designated him the lead for a regional water study.
Since then, Jones’ duties have expanded, but the board has not formally renewed Jones’ contract. Dawson said the situation amounted to the indefinite expansion of his contract, which has no current job description or timetable.
“I have people ask me — how do I get onto that gravy train?” Dawson said. “There is something wrong and we have to fix it.”
Supervisor Tommie Martin said, “I’m not sure there’s anybody out there that has been on a gravy train.”
She said the ambiguity pointed to an inadequate contract, and not any wrongdoing.
Supervisors tabled the topic of Jones’ contract in 2006, and again in late June.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Mike Pastor suggested holding a work-study session to review the county’s contracts, and ensure all had a definitive timeline and scope of work.
“I’m not saying what has been done is wrong,” Pastor said.
“We need to be aware of what’s out there and how we manage it.”
Dawson has said she doesn’t believe any one supervisor has the authority to sign contracts, but rather the decision should rest with the board.
Martin, who fervently supports Jones’ efforts working on water issues in northern Gila County, said that supervisors should be able to occasionally request services and pay for them out of their individual funds without seeking board approval. Each supervisor has a $100,000 “constituent services” fund.
Martin has paid Jones $486 this fiscal year out of her fund, and Jones has billed the county for 134 hours since January at a rate of $45 per hour.
Dawson said, “I’m not talking about as a board micromanaging Gila County,” and added that government accountability required understanding and approving its contracts.
She also said that every contract needs to be on file in the clerk’s office. The county had no record of Jones’ contract.