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Holecheck responds to public pummeling by town staff member

<p>Horace Langford Jr. / Special to the Pahrump Valley Times - Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck</p>

Horace Langford Jr. / Special to the Pahrump Valley Times - Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck

Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck said she was confused by remarks made from a town employee during last Tuesday’s town board meeting.

Holecheck responded to scathing comments made by Financial Assistant Carla Yoder, who has been an employee of the town for roughly seven years.

Yoder openly criticized the town manager on agenda items relating to the revision and implementation of employee contracts for five department heads.

She slammed Holecheck for singling out the department heads from the approximately 50 employees who work for the town.

“What gives them the right that they are given special privilege while the rest of us will have to apply for unemployment with no severance pay? What gives them the right to spend that much taxpayer money on themselves? It’s like they are so afraid of losing their jobs, than like the rest of us, they have to make a decision on whether or not to go look for another job. They have four and a half months to find one,” Yoder wrote in a prepared statement.

On Monday Holecheck said she felt eviscerated and hurt by the comments.

Holecheck said if Yoder had communicated her feelings about the matter prior to the board meeting, it would have avoided much confusion and rancor among town staff.

“I wish the employee would have come and talked to me. I’ve had meetings with staff to try and quell their concerns on several occasions. If staff didn’t think I was fighting long enough and hard enough, that couldn’t be further from the truth, but that was clearly one person’s perception,” she said.

Additionally, Holecheck said she was only looking out for the best interests of town employees after the contract related items were sponsored by Board member Amy Riches and placed on the town’s agenda.

“I don’t know where I went wrong. I was just trying to run an operation that’s consistent and effective. I do once in a while have to say no and be the bad guy every once in a while. We clearly need to have parameters and procedures. Our population is growing and we expect some sort of accountability,” she said.

Holecheck also said she believes all town contracts, especially ones pertaining to employment need to be inspected each year, or every two years at best.

“We should do that to make sure all of the provisions are enforceable and applicable. You need to review contracts and it doesn’t matter if they are employment contracts or mutual aid contracts. You may also need to learn from the person if it’s still working out for them,” she said.

Yoder, meanwhile, went on to say that the town should engage the county for a line of communication regarding the future employment of staff.

“Management should be spending this time working with the county trying to get some assurance for staff that they will have a job or at least get people notice so they can start looking for a job if their position is being eliminated,” Yoder wrote.

Holecheck who likened the comments to a “punch on the stomach,” said she believes Yoder’s comments can undermine the dynamics of how the town office functions from day to day, as well as employee morale.

“That of course is my perspective but I really felt gut punched. What hurt the most was a town board member saying I was strong-willed and didn’t get along with staff and that was inappropriate. My evaluation had occurred two meetings before that and it was not the appropriate time to be evaluating my performance. We have since talked about it and I accepted an apology,” she said.

Moreover, Holecheck said she was surprised about Yoder’s comments since they were in stark contrast to what the same employee wrote after the town manager was hired by the board last year.

In part, Yoder told the town manager that her work was greatly appreciated, while thanking her for all the work she has done for the entire town staff.

“It’s been years since we had a town manager that actually cared about the employees. I want to thank you for both the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment), and merit increase.” the financial assistant said. “I am finally starting to feel that all my hard work wasn’t for nothing. I also want to thank you for giving me my own office. The peace and quiet has been such a blessing. Your generosity in giving up the big office has done wonders in bringing the decibel level down and making it a more professional work environment. I want to thank you for all that you have done and are doing to make this a better place to work. You are greatly appreciated,” Yoder wrote to Holecheck.

Last November, Holecheck chose to give up the town manager’s office in favor of a smaller workspace.

At the time, she said some office personnel needed a more secure area to conduct their daily business.

“I thought about how I could get them a secure place to do their work and yet not spend a lot of the taxpayer dollars. The best way for me to do that was to give up my office. I don’t care where I sit. Just give me a desk and computer and I’m good. All three of the ambulance billing ladies are now in what used to be the town manager’s office. It’s a secure area and they can close the door when they are on the phone. For me, it was really an important move,” she said.

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