Monday, June 24, 2024

Kootenai County commissioners restore assessor's pay

Staff Writer | May 25, 2023 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Following a judge’s order, Kootenai County commissioners cast a split vote Tuesday to restore Assessor Bela Kovacs’ salary, which the board cut in half last year citing Kovacs failed to perform some of his statutory duties.

Commissioners Leslie Duncan and Bruce Mattare voted to comply with the order, while Bill Brooks cast the dissenting vote. Both Brooks and Duncan voted last year to slash Kovacs’ salary, along with former commissioner Chris Fillios.

“This is a new board and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a clean slate,” said Mattare, who was elected to the board after Kovacs’ pay was cut.

The move brings Kovacs’ salary from $45,000 to $95,811.24, which includes a 6% cost of living adjustment that all county employees received as part of the fiscal year 2023 budget. The county will pay the difference between his current pay retroactive to the date of the pay cut.

Kovacs sued the county in October 2022, asking the court to restore his salary. He placed blame on the commissioners and county IT department for state deadlines missed by his office last year.

Earlier this month, District Judge Susie Jensen ordered the county to restore Kovacs’ pay but denied Kovacs’ request for attorney’s fees.

Jensen determined commissioners have the authority to fix a county officer’s salary, as well as to increase or reduce pay. She noted, however, the scope of the assessor’s duties had not changed at the time that Kovacs’ pay was cut, so a salary reduction was not appropriate.

Kovacs asked commissioners Tuesday to earmark $250,000 in the fiscal year 2024 budget to cover his office’s portion of a fit-gap analysis on new software used by the county assessor and the county treasurer.

“That would be with the purpose to assist Kootenai County in the eventual migration of our current system to a next-generation system for both the assessor and the Treasurer’s Office,” Kovacs said.

Commissioners agreed to defer a final decision pending more information.