CROWN POINT — Lake County Commissioners hired a human resources director but are in no hurry to fire the consultant she is replacing.
Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, and Jerry Tippy, R-Schererville, see nothing redundant in paying Danielle Royster, of Gary, $75,000, and retaining the $42,000-a-year contract with Thomas Dabertin's Shared Resource Solutions to advise them on human resources matters, for the moment.
"In the short term, I expect things to continue as they are. And later, an adjustment in monetary terms or changes as to what his expectations are is almost certain," Repay said.
Tippy said Royster "is working on some things right now that don't involve Tom, but that doesn't mean we don't need him. He handles the family-leave cases and some of the unemployment issues. We will leave that up to Danielle as to whether she wants those responsibilities herself or hire a different consultant. That will be up to her."
Lake County Council President David Hamm, D-Hammond, said, "I can't see Tom continuing beyond the end of this year. His HR services should be limited to training his replacement."
The Lake County Council created county government's first human resources department last year to bring a professional approach to hiring and managing personnel concerns of its 1,800 full-time employees and still more part-time employees.
The council authorized a $665,000 budget for human resources this year. Commissioners took several months to vet and interview applicants before announcing Royster's hiring last month.
Employee relations were taken literally in the past when officeholders hired friends, family and political supporters. Hamm said, "That is the way it used to run," adding he was first hired as a Hammond police officer decades ago because his mother knew (then Hammond Mayor) Ed Raskowsky."
Dabertin and his Shared Resource Solutions Inc. staff have been providing commissioners with human resources guidance since 2011. His company's contract is providing him with $42,000 a year. He also has done consulting work for the county E-911 department and the county council in past years.
"He was our on-call HR guy," Repay said.
Past practices changing
Dabertin said last month that in recent years his duties grew, and he has provided more HR services without asking for added compensation. Dabertin said he expects to return to his original training and investigation duties and remain under a $42,000 annual contract.
Repay said he appreciates Dabertin's views. "That is where my short-term thoughts are, certainly for the rest of this year. I'm almost certain the contract will look different."
Tippy said, "Tom Dabertin is saying he is staying on with that contract at that price. No one else has said that. Our feelings are, Danielle will determine what Tom's responsibilities are to be, if any. Then his contract would be commensurate with whatever those responsibilities would be."
Repay and Tippy said they want to keep Dabertin in place this year to help ease Royster into her job, but will revisit Dabertin's contract eventually.
"We (commissioners) don't want to micromanage. We want her to run her department, set up her department and whatever happens with Tom Dabertin. We want her recommendation. We aren't HR experts; she is," Tippy said.
Councilman Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, said he and other council members have been working the past eight years to have a full-service human resources staff.
"We are like a medium-sized company, and we don't have an HR person? I think this will take a lot of the politics out. Why hire a person, just because you know them, like the previous (county jail) warden. Now we have a qualified person," Dernulc said.
Dernulc was referring to the naming by former Sheriff John Buncich of his friend and veteran co-worker Ed Davies as warden two years ago, overlooking Davies' misdemeanor theft conviction.
Sheriff Oscar Martinez, who took over following Buncich's bribery conviction last year, removed Davies and hired Michael Zenk, a 39-year veteran of correctional law enforcement, including as a federal prison warden.
Hamm said the council wanted to get away from patronage hiring and into considering job experience and qualifications . "We won't have Dave Hamm's or Dan Dernulc's buddies hired," Hamm said.