Fire district finance director departs; political environment cited

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By Vicky Gits

In her going-away presentation May 28, the finance director of the Evergreen Fire Protection District said she has felt “personally and professionally attacked by the board” since the controversy leading to a recall election surfaced last year.

“Many of you may think it’s about the money. That is not the reason,” said Christina Griggs, who held the part-time position as finance director for four years. Her last day was Friday, May 30.

“Since the recall, I have felt attacked personally and professionally by this board, and not one member has taken the time to talk to me about what I do or ask any basic questions about the treasurer’s report,” Griggs said in a prepared statement during the regular meeting May 28 at fire district headquarters on Bergen Parkway.

“I have a lot of knowledge of the financial history of the district. Since alleged financial mismanagement was the driving force behind the recall, I am surprised no one asked me about the history,” Griggs said.

“Considering how much time and money was spent to bring the district into fiscal health and compliance, I am not willing to see that go away, so I have decided to leave. As a private citizen, I will be watching closely to see how my tax dollars are being managed by this board.”

None of the board members responded to Griggs’ comments during the meeting. Fire Chief Garry DeJong, however, gave her a laudatory sendoff.

“Her knowledge made my transition much easier. ee I’m sorry to see her go,” DeJong said.

In March the board of directors voted to cut both the finance director’s and human resources director’s pay from $70 and $60 per hour, respectively, with no benefits, to $50 per hour with partial, pro-rated time-off benefits.

The starting salary range for the future finance director is set at $38 to $42 per hour plus pro-rated paid time off, based on a job announcement published in the Canyon Courier. The application deadline was May 23.

In a separate interview, Griggs told the Courier she loved her work at Evergreen Fire/Rescue but she was unhappy with the political environment after the recall election. She said her decision was not about the pay reduction.

“When the recall occurred, (the new directors) never sat down with me to share their perspective. If they were being responsible, they would have said, ‘This is what I’ve heard.’ ”

Griggs said her position wasn’t getting the respect it should have because of her association with the previous administration linked to former chief Joel Janov. She said the directors were not coming to her first with questions.

By new directors, Griggs said she was referring to Jeff deDisse and George Goldbach, mainly.

“In all fairness, George Kling is a very new member, but he is the one who was saying lots of things during the recall that he had never talked to me about,” Griggs said.

Goldbach was elected to replace longtime board president Phil Shanley in the recall election Nov. 14. Shortly after joining the board, Goldbach began questioning whether the finance director and human resources directors’ positions were being compensated at a level higher than the industry standard.

DeDisse, who was elected to replace board member David Klaus in the recall, said the pay cut had nothing to do with Griggs’ performance.

“The financials are in better shape than they have ever been,” deDisse said. He said his job responsibility was to be a watchdog and let the chief run the fire department.

“If you really want to look at it, she made more dollars per hour than the chief of the department. What does that look like to the rest of the people? Her pay was cut to bring her back into the same pay levels that everyone else was living with,” deDisse said.

Kling, who was elected to a four-year term in the regular election May 6, said he didn’t have any comment to make about Griggs’ statements or her employment.

After comparing the salaries of all the paid staff with a salary survey conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council, a committee of fire board directors, Lloyd See and Goldbach, determined the only paid staffers being “overpaid” were Griggs and Patti Duncan, the human resources director.

“Our intent was to bring her in line with what is currently being paid in Colorado, not to offend her personally. I’m sorry she couldn’t see fit to work for that amount of money. I think it’s a shame. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” Goldbach said.

“We compared all the salaries, and those two were the only ones that were out of line. She did a fair job. Not an outstanding job. But she was more than welcome to stay,” he said.

Board president Chick Dykeman said Griggs did an excellent job, and he would be happy to recommend her for another job.

“I have nothing but good things to say about Christina. She has done a great job with the financing and budgeting. The way she handled the recall was absolutely first class. ee She and I have always seen eye to eye,” Dykeman said.

In January, Dykeman supported Griggs’ original pay rate, as did board member Jaine Hamilton. In March he voted for the pay reduction, as did board members deDisse, Goldbach and See. Hamilton was absent.

Griggs said she would devote more attention to her private business, Gemsbok Consulting, which employs four other people and is growing “by leaps and bounds.”

She questioned whether the district would be able to hire someone with her level of expertise for what it is willing to pay. The part-time job is listed at $38.35 to $42.20 per hour plus pro-rated benefits, in an advertisement published in the Canyon Courier.

Griggs said she is most proud of reorganizing the district’s financial procedures to make it possible for division managers to track their progress on a monthly basis and get involved in the budgeting process.

She also was instrumental in setting up a policy of saving 21 percent of the fire district income to put into a reserve account for major capital purchases.

“Before that the district was operating at a loss, and they didn’t know it. They were slowly eating into their reserve account and couldn’t see it,” Griggs said.