9. MISCELLANEOUS

9.1 COUNTY EQUIPMENT USAGE

Employees of Okanogan County are not to use County equipment for personal gain or benefit. Phone calls for private purposes are to be kept to a minimum and made during breaks or lunch periods if at all possible. Personal long distance phone calls by an employee shall not be billed to the County. The billing shall either be to a third party or by use of personal credit card.

The use of County vehicles is restricted to County business purposes only. Employees using County vehicles shall not pick up hitchhikers or transport any private parties not directly involved with the work of the County. County employees with the permission of the department head are permitted to transport spouses in County vehicles when attending conferences or meetings. All accidents in County vehicles or using County equipment shall be reported immediately to the employee’s supervisor. Employees using County vehicles are individually responsible for all fines or penalties assessed to the employee as a result of speeding tickets or other traffic offenses for which the employee is cited while using a County vehicle.

It is the policy of Okanogan County to prohibit the use of county owned vehicles for daily commuting by county employees except for those vehicles listed in Section1.274 (k) of Title 26 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Director of Administrative Services shall determine, on a case by case basis, which county vehicles meet the exemption listed in said regulation. Only those vehicles approved by the Director of Administrative Services may be used for daily commuting by county employees. Vehicles not exempt by the IRS code but taken home for the expedience of the county as authorized by the Director of Administrative Services will be taxed as a benefit and reported as income to the operator by the county auditor.

9.2 WHISTLEBLOWER ACT

9.2.1 Policy Statement

It is the policy of Okanogan County to:

  • Encourage reporting by its employees of improper governmental action taken by Okanogan County officers or employees
  • Protect Okanogan County employees who have reported improper governmental actions in accordance with Okanogan County’s policies and procedures.

9.2.2 Definitions

As used in this policy, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
Improper governmental action – means any action by an Okanogan county officer or employee that is:

  • Undertaken in the performance of the officer’s or employee’s official duties, whether or not the action is within the scope of the employee’s employment; and
  • That is in violation of any federal, state, or local law or rule; is an abuse of authority; is of substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety; or is a gross waste of public funds.

Improper governmental action does not include personnel actions, including employee grievances, complaints, appointments, promotions, transfers, assignments, reassignments, reinstatements, restorations, reemployments, performance evaluations, reduction in pay, dismissals, suspensions, demotions, violations of collective bargaining or civil service laws, alleged violations of labor agreements or reprimands.

Retaliatory action – means any adverse change in the terms and conditions of an Okanogan County employee’s employment.

Emergency – means a circumstance that if not immediately changed may cause damage to persons or property.

9.2.3 Procedures for Reporting

Okanogan County employees who become aware of improper governmental actions shall raise the issue first with their supervisor. If requested by the supervisor, the employee shall submit a written report to the supervisor, or to some person designated by the supervisor, stating in detail the basis for the employee’s belief that an improper governmental action has occurred. Where the employee reasonably believes the improper governmental action involves his or her supervisor, the employee may raise the issue directly with the department head or Administrative Coordinator or such other person as may be designated by the Administrative Coordinator to receive reports of improper governmental actions.

In the case of an emergency, where the employee believes that damage to persons or property may result if action is not taken immediately, the employee may report the improper governmental action directly to the appropriate government agency with responsibility for investigating the improper action.

The supervisor, the Administrative Coordinator, or the Administrative Coordinator’s designee, as the case may be, shall take prompt action to assist Okanogan County in properly investigating the report of improper governmental action. Okanogan County officers and employees involved in the investigation shall keep the identity of reporting employees confidential to the extent possible under law, unless the employee authorizes the disclosure of his or her identity in writing. After an investigation has been completed, the employee reporting the improper governmental action shall be advised of a summary of the results of the investigation, except that personnel actions taken as a result of the investigation may be kept confidential.

Okanogan County employees may report information about improper governmental action directly to the appropriate government agency with responsibility for investigating the improper action if the Okanogan County employee reasonably believes that an adequate investigation was not undertaken by Okanogan County to determine whether an improper governmental action occurred, or that insufficient action has been taken by Okanogan County to address the improper governmental action or that for other reasons the improper governmental action is likely to recur.

Okanogan County employees who fail to make a good-faith attempt to follow Okanogan County procedures in reporting improper governmental action shall not receive the protections provided Okanogan County in these procedures.

9.2.4 Protection Against Retaliatory Action

Okanogan County officials and employees are prohibited from taking retaliatory action against an Okanogan County employee because he/she has in good faith reported an improper governmental action in accordance with these policies and procedures.

Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for reporting an improper governmental action shall advise their supervisor, the Administrative Coordinator, or the Administrative Coordinator’s designee. Okanogan County officials and supervisors shall investigate and address complaints of retaliation.

If the employee’s supervisor, the Administrative Coordinator, or the Administrative Coordinator designee, as the case may be, does not satisfactorily resolve an Okanogan County employee’s complaint that the employee has been retaliated against in violation of this policy, the Okanogan County employee may obtain protection under this policy and pursuant to State law by providing a written notice to the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners that:

  • Specifies the alleged retaliatory action and
  • Specifies the relief requested.

Okanogan County employees shall provide a copy of their written charge to the Administrative Coordinator no later than thirty (30) days after the occurrence of the alleged retaliatory action. Okanogan County shall respond within thirty (30) days to the charge of retaliatory action.

After receiving either the response of Okanogan County or thirty (30) days after the delivery of the charge to Okanogan County, the Okanogan County employee may request a hearing before a State administrative law judge to establish that a retaliatory action occurred and to obtain appropriate relief provided by law. An employee seeking a hearing shall deliver the request for hearing to the Administrative Coordinator within the earlier of either fifteen (15) days of delivery of Okanogan County’s response to the charge of retaliatory action, or forty-five (45) days of delivery of the charge of retaliation to Okanogan County for response.

Upon receipt of the request for hearing, Okanogan County shall apply within five (5) working days to the State Office of Administrative Hearing for an adjudicative proceeding before an administrative law judge:

Office of Administrative Hearings
P.O. Box 42488, 4224 Sixth S.E.
Rowe Six, Bldg. 1
Lacy, Washington 98504-2488
(206) 459-6353

Okanogan County shall consider any recommendation provided by the administrative law judge that the retaliator be suspended with or without pay, or dismissed.

9.2.5 Responsibilities

The Administrative Coordinator is responsible for implementing Okanogan County’s policies and procedures for:

  • Reporting improper governmental action;
  • Protecting employees against retaliatory actions.

This includes ensuring that this policy and these procedures are:

  • Permanently posted where all employees shall have reasonable access to them;
  • Made available to any employee upon request; and
  • Provided to all newly hired employees.

Officers, managers and supervisors are responsible for ensuring the procedures are fully implemented within their areas of responsibility. Violations of this policy and these procedures may result in appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

9.2.6 List of Agencies

Following is a list of agencies responsible for enforcing state and local laws and investigating other issues involving improper governmental action. Employees having questions about these agencies or the procedures for reporting improper governmental action are encouraged to contact the Administrative Coordinator.

Okanogan County:

Okanogan County Prosecutor
Criminal and Civil Divisions
P.O. Box 1130 Okanogan, WA 98840
509-422-7280
Okanogan County Health District
P.O. Box 231
Okanogan, WA 98840
509-422-7140
 

Okanogan County Sheriff's Department
P.O. Box 1490
Okanogan, WA 98840
509-422-7200

 

State of Washington:

Attorney General's Office
Fair Practices Division
2000 Bank of California Center
900 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, WA
206-464-7740
State Auditor's Office
Legislative Building
P.O. Box 40021
Olympia, WA 98504-0021
360-902-0369
 

State Department of Ecology
3190 160th
Bellevue, WA 98008-5852
425-649-7000

 

Human Rights Commission
402 Evergreen Plaza Building, FJ-41
711 South Capitol #402
Olympia, WA 98504-2490
1-800-662-2755

 

State Department of Health
Health Consumer Assistance
P.O. box 47890
Olympia, WA 98504-7891
1-800-525-0127

Department of Labor and Industries
300 West Harrison, Room 201
Seattle, WA
206-281-5400
 

State Liquor Control Board
Enforcement Office
2101 Sixth Avenue
Seattle, WA
206-464-6094

Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 68
Enumclaw, WA 98022
1-360-825-1631
 

Puget Sound Water Quality Authority
P.O. Box 40900
Olympia, WA 98504
360-407-7300

 

Department of Social and Health Services
Special Investigations Office
5200 Southcenter Blvd., Suite 23
Tukwila, WA
206-438-8111

9.3 CELL PHONE POLICY

9.3.1 Policy for County Owned Cellular Phones

It is the policy of Okanogan County to provide employees with efficient, cost effective telephone communication equipment and services. The purchase and utilization of cellular telephones shall be limited to the requirement and specification contained in this policy.

The acquisition of cellular telephones shall be limited to those instances in which there is a demonstrated need for such equipment to perform essential County business or to improve safety, increase productivity, increase service to the public, or in situations in which necessary communications cannot be provided by any other means. The purchase of cellular telephones shall be subject to approval by the department head.

9.3.2 Use of Cellular Phones

Cellular telephone calls are more expensive than those using ordinary telephone service. These higher costs shall be weighed against the level of employee need and expected usage. Cellular phones shall be used only when a lower cost alternative is unsafe, inconvenient or not readily available. Cellular transmissions can be overheard by others. Discretion is to be used in discussing confidential information using cellular communication. Employees are responsible for taking reasonable precautions to prevent theft and/or vandalism of cellular equipment.

9.3.3 Personal Use

The County recognizes that occasions arise in which personal calls need to be made or received on a cellular telephone. However, it is intended that cellular telephones be used for County business-related purposes. Personal calls are to be minimized. Calls home or to the family, etc., by County staff when required to work extended hours shall be considered business calls. The County reserves the right to monitor the billing and use of all County owned cellular telephones and has the authority to withhold any un-reimbursed amount from the employee’s wages.

9.3.4 Reimbursement for Personal Calls

Employees provided with a cellular phone must enter into a reimbursement agreement with the county, which requires the prompt reimbursement for the cost of personal calls on County owned cellular phones. Employees are responsible for maintaining a record of the phone numbers and names of persons or businesses that have been called, or who call, for personal reasons and provide a copy of the records to accounts payable in the Auditor’s Office or Public Works Finance Department. As an alternative, the required information may be noted on the monthly cellular service billing. The employee shall attach a copy of the receipt or check to the cellular phone bill to show reimbursement has been made to the County for any personal calls.

9.3.5 Termination of Use of County Owned Cellular Phones

If the conditions of this policy are violated by the employee, the department head shall terminate the use of County owned cellular phones by the employee.

9.3.6 Policy for Employee Owned Cellular Phones

It is the policy of Okanogan County to allow employees to use personal cellular telephones at group discount rates. The cellular phone company shall mail each employee’s bill to the participating employee at the County Department address. To retain this privilege, the employee’s bill shall be paid by the employee on or before the due date. Any discrepancies or problems with the cellular telephone carrier billing shall be dealt with by the employee.

Participating employees shall recognize that this is a privilege and not an employee benefit and agree that the County may deduct the charges from the employee’s paycheck and terminate the provision of cellular phone services at the special employee rate if the employee’s bill becomes delinquent.

Participating county employees shall provide the County with their cellular phone number, enabling County personnel to contact the participating employees in the event of an emergency.

An employee may have no more than two (2) cellular phones in their name at the government rate.

To apply for a personal cellular phone, the employee and department head shall complete a personal cellular phone agreement, which describes the conditions of cellular phone use, ownership, and responsibility.

Upon an employee’s termination of services from the County for any reason, the cellular phone privilege shall also terminate.

 

9.4 COMPUTER AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION POLICY

Okanogan County has established the following policy with regard to use of equipment, services, access and disclosure of electronic mail messages created, sent, or received by County employees using the County’s electronic mail system and Internet services. Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action. If necessary, the County shall advise appropriate legal officials of any illegal violations.

9.4.1 Use of County Microcomputers

Each employee shall be responsible for using the County computer systems for job-related purposes only. Because computing systems – equipment and software—belong to Okanogan County, the County has an obligation to ensure their legal and ethical use and has the right to monitor all County users. Employees may use only the computing resources they are authorized to use and only for the job-related purposes specified. Employees shall be held accountable for ALL usage of their systems and shall keep their keywords and passwords confidential to protect themselves and their files. Employees shall not access or copy software of data belonging to others or to the County. Reading another employee’s files is prohibited unless authorized by the department head. Employees shall not transport software or data provided by the County to another computer site without prior authorization from the department responsible for the data.

The use of computers and the network are provided to employees as tools for job-related use. Misuse of computers and the network shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Such misuse would include but not limited to:

  • placing unlawful information on a system
  • copying system files
  • copying of copyright materials
  • transportation of copyrighted software from one site to another with the owner’s expressed permission
  • use of abusive or otherwise objectionable language in either public or private messages
  • accessing, viewing, downloading, or any other method for retrieving non-County related information including, but not limited to, entertainment sites or pornographic sites
  • sending of messages that are likely to result in the loss of recipient’s work or systems
  • sending of "chain-letters", jokes or lists or any other types of use that would cause congestion or disrupt the operation of the networks or otherwise interfere with the work of others
  • use of systems and or networks in attempts to gain unauthorized access to other networks
  • decryption of system or user passwords

Improper installation of hardware and software can damage a system or cause it to malfunction. All software and hardware shall be installed only with the express consent of the department head. It is the department head’s responsibility to assure proper installation, to verify licensing and to protect systems from computer viruses. The Central Services Department is available for assistance when requested.

All software, programs, applications, templates, data and data files residing on County microcomputer systems or storage media or developed on county systems are property of Okanogan County and shall not be removed from the workplace without proper authorization. The County, therefore, may access, copy, change, alter, modify, destroy, delete or erase this property. Data files containing confidential or sensitive data should be treated accordingly.

9.4.2 Copyright Infringements

Unauthorized duplication of copyrighted information or data and software packages is a direct infringement of the federal copyright law. Illegal copying of software shall be subject to disciplinary action. Computer programs may not be rented, leased, or loaned for direct or indirect commercial advantage. Computer programs may not used or transferred to another site other than as specified by the licensing agreement.

9.4.3 E-Mail Policy

The electronic mail system hardware and software is the property of the County. Additionally, all messages composed, sent, or received on the electronic mail system are, and remain, the property of the County and as such can be viewed, retrieved and monitored by the County. E-mail is not the private property of the employee. The use of the computers and the electronic mail system is reserved solely for the conduct of business of the County. Employees are not authorized to retrieve or read e-mail messages that are not sent to them. The e-mail system:

  • Shall be used for business purposes. Any personal use shall be kept to a minimum and authorized by the department head.
  • E-mail messages shall be stored no longer than two weeks on the system. Information requiring longer retention shall be printed and stored as hard copies.
  • Shall not be used to solicit or proselytize for commercial venture, religious or political causes, outside organizations, or other non-job-related solicitation.
  • Shall not be used to create any offensive or disruptive messages including sexual implications, racial slurs, gender-specific comments, or any other comment that offensively addresses someone’s age, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, national origin, or disability.
  • Shall not be used to send (upload) or receive (download) copyrighted materials, trade secrets, proprietary or financial information, or similar materials without prior written authorization from the owner of the material.
  • Shall not be used to communicate confidential and sensitive information such as performance reviews, disciplinary and /or corrective actions, attorney-client-privileged information, personnel information and health or medical information.

9.4.4 Internet Access

Internet access is provided to employees to conduct County business only in a timely and efficient manner. Employees accessing the Internet are representing Okanogan County and all communications shall be for business related purposes only. Since there is only one Internet connection shared by all county departments, the use of the Internet by any one employee could impact all other uses. The County has the right to monitor Internet use to assure that Internet use is for legitimate business purposes and that access to the Internet is not abused by any one employee.

Downloading of files without the express consent of the department head is prohibited. Files downloaded from the Internet, or any other outside service, may contain a computer virus and must be scanned by a virus checking software prior to being used on a County computer. Uploading to the Internet is prohibited unless authorized by the department head to avoid interception and unauthorized access to information.

9.5 EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT

9.5.1 Policy

It is the policy of Okanogan County that reimbursements shall be made only for documented expenditures by County employees or officials for those actual expenses incurred on their own behalf while in the performance of official County business.

9.5.2 Meals

Reimbursement for meals shall be made on a per diem basis only for those meals eaten outside Okanogan County unless otherwise authorized by the Board of County Commissioners or appointing authority. The department head/elected official shall determine departure and/or return times so meals on those days are decided in advance. Meals shall be allocated on the following basis:

EASTERN WASHINGTON
Breakfast $7.00
Lunch $8.00
Dinner $15.00
WESTERN WASHINGTON
Breakfast $8.00
Lunch $9.00 Dinner
$18.00

Whenever registration fees or conference include meals, the employee shall not be paid per diem for these meals. All out of state meals shall be allocated on the basis of Western Washington scale. Expenditures in excess of these amounts shall be borne by the employee.

The determination for Eastern Washington and Western Washington shall be the Cascade Crest. Anything east of the Cascade Crest shall be paid at the Eastern Washington rate and anything west of the Cascade Crest shall be paid at the Western Washington rate.

9.5.3 Accommodations

Reimbursement for accommodations shall be made for room charges plus the applicable taxes as stated on the billing from the hotel or motel (or other recognized lodging site such as a university conference center). These bills must be attached to the expense claim form, and the bills must be at single occupancy rate, or else the single occupancy rate must be noted on the bill. If two employees share accommodations, they may each claim one-half of the expenditure. No reimbursement shall be made for a spouse or other non-county employee. The amount of reimbursement claimed for accommodations is subject to a standard of reasonableness, and the County’s Auditing Officer may recommend disallowance of amounts deemed by the Board to be excessive. Telephone calls, or any other classes of expenditures appearing on an accommodation billing, shall be deducted and reported separately elsewhere on the voucher in appropriate categories provided for incidentals. Meals may NOT appear on these billings.

9.5.4 Travel

The current personal vehicle mileage rate for reimbursement is set by the Board of County Commissioners. It is the policy of Okanogan County that County vehicles shall be used instead of personal vehicles whenever reasonably possible. Mileage must be documented by date on the reverse side of the claim voucher in the spaces provided; the destination shall be provided, and the purpose of the travel stated.

9.5.5 Public Transportation

Reimbursement of expenditures for public transportation shall be made upon presentation of receipts for it attached to the claim voucher. Also included in Public Transportation are bus fares, taxi fares, and ferry fares, receipts for which must be attached to the claim voucher.

9.5.6 Registration Fees

Reimbursement of registration fees to conferences, schools, seminars, etc. shall be made upon presentation of receipts for same attached to the claim voucher.

9.5.7 Other Incidentals

Parking, and bridge tolls shall be reimbursed upon presentation of receipts for same attached to the claim voucher. Cleaning or laundering charges for special necessary apparel while attending required academy training for Sheriff’s deputies, jailers and juvenile detention officers shall be reimbursed with receipts to the claim voucher.

9.5.8 Forms

Claims for reimbursement shall be made on forms provided by the County auditor. The claim voucher shall be filled out in every detail, front and back, with all of the supporting receipts attached to it. The voucher shall be signed by the employee and also by the department head or designee.

9.5.9 Credit Card Billings

Itemized statements from credit card sources are paid with a white voucher, but expense claim vouchers for all employees involved with the travel charges on the billing shall be completed on both sides, signed properly, have all receipts attached, to be attached to the regular voucher and vendor statement. The use of credit cards is limited to only authorized travel expenses. NO MEALS MAY BE CHARGED ON THE COUNTY CREDIT CARD. Credit cards may be used for department purchases (office supplies, equipment) if authorized by the department head.

9.5.10 Special Circumstances

Exceptions to the foregoing rules or policies may be made by the Board of County Commissioners upon a showing of special circumstances by the claimant to the Board.

Volunteer workers may be reimbursed for expenses, with prior approval of the department head or elected official.

Law enforcement and juvenile officers, at times, must have a member of the opposite sex accompany them while transporting prisoners. Board of County Commissioners' approval shall be required for reimbursement.

9.5.11 Exceptions

9.5.12 Advanced Travel Fund

An advanced travel fund has been established by the County for all departments, except for the Sheriff’s department, Mental Health/Drug Abuse, and Public Works, which shall administer their own advanced travel fund. The County advance travel fund shall be administered by the Auditor’s Office. Forms can be obtained from the Auditor’s Office for advance travel. The form needs to be turned in as soon as possible, but no later than one week before departure. The check shall be issued two (2) days before the departure date shown on the form. If for some reason the employee is unable to attend the meeting the advance was requested for, the money shall be returned to the County Auditor’s Office within ten (10) days.

9.6 Gifts and Gratuities

County employees shall not, under any circumstances, accept or solicit any gift, gratuity, loan, or fee where there is any relationship between the solicitation and the employee’s employment with Okanogan County. County employees shall not accept either directly or indirectly any gift, gratuity, loan fee or any other thing of value, the acceptance of which may tend to influence directly or indirectly the actions of said employees or other persons in any manner of County business.

Items with a nominal value (less than $25.00) and distributed in a general manner by businesses, vendors, and/or consultants as their routine policy of conducting business and advertising shall be considered social amenities and not subject to this policy.