Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich hopes to profit from former Spokane County Treasurer Skip Chilberg’s recent re-election defeat.
Knezovich had been wishing for a budget director when voters gave Chilberg his pink slip in November, and now he plans to hire the longtime public official.
“There’s nothing nefarious about it,” Knezovich said. “It’s just that opportunity knocked. He knows the county, he knows the county financial system, he knows budgets.”
Currently, the Sheriff’s Office has no central financial office or director. Budget management is divided between the jail and law enforcement divisions.
Undersheriff Jeff Tower said the office has no one “with intimate knowledge of both budgets,” and no one with Chilberg’s expertise.
“It has always baffled me that an agency with a $65 million budget doesn’t have somebody with those skills,” Knezovich said.
In addition to serving 14 years as treasurer in two stints, Chilberg has been a county commissioner. He also was the Idaho state budget director for 2½ of the six years he worked for then-Gov. Cecil Andrus.
“Skip is someone that I can trust concerning financial matters,” Knezovich said.
He plans to use one of 10 exemptions that allow him to choose whoever he wants for a job without competitive civil service testing.
Knezovich hopes creation of a unified budget will bring stability as well as efficiency. His goal is to develop a capital fund that can bridge over lean years and the vagaries of state and federal grants.
The soonest Chilberg can be hired is Feb. 14, when the county Civil Service Commission has its next monthly meeting. The commission must approve a job description and salary range that are yet to be developed by its staff.
Chilberg and Knezovich both said they would prefer the job to be contractual instead of payroll, but state pension rules won’t allow that.
Knezovich had intended to pay Chilberg about $90,000 a year under a contract he said would have saved the county about $40,000.
Chilberg, 66, said a contract also would have allowed his ex-wife to continue collecting her share of his pension. Under state regulations, the pension isn’t paid in any year Chilberg goes back to public employment.
Chilberg’s pay will come from a vacant undersheriff position. Previously, Knezovich had planned to use the money for a new captain in charge of special projects.
“I think the budget is more important,” Knezovich said. “In the economic crisis that we’re in, I need to find a way to maximize our resources.”