Marchus' grievance halted

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A grievance process spawned by the termination of ex-Chief Building Official Mark Marchus has come to a "grinding halt," according to communication between the county and Marchus.

Meanwhile, Routt County has filed a case in District Court to get Marchus to return copies of personnel files that Marchus denies having.

The grievance process stalled during the process of selecting a three-member board to hear the case. The county got to choose two people, and Marchus got to choose one, but Marchus' choice -- Routt County Undersheriff Dan Taylor -- opted out of participating because of the time commitment and other factors.

An April 1 letter from Marchus' attorney, Charles Feldmann, to the county stated that nothing in the county personnel manual allows a selected employee to opt out of serving on the board, and that the county's allowance of such is "patently unfair."

The letter also states that Marchus' only option to ensure a "fair hearing" is to take the matter to court and cancel the hearing, which was scheduled for April 12 through 16.

A court case on behalf of Marchus will be filed early next week, Marchus said, and will ask the court to make Taylor sit on the grievance board. The case also will ask the court to make the process more fair by not allowing Dan Strnad, county finance director, to sit on the grievance board because he is a friend of Routt County Attorney John Merrill.

Feldmann's letter was addressed to Josh Marks, the Boulder attorney hired by the county. In an April 5 letter from Marks, the county replied that Marchus was instructed to find another board member when Taylor declined, and so is "solely responsible for the loss of these hearing dates and bringing this grievance process to a grinding halt."

Taylor cannot be forced to participate in the process, the county's letter states, and the county has no means to compel the sheriff's department employees to participate.

Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan chose Strnad, and Routt County commissioners chose Polly St. James, assistant county attorney, to serve on the committee.

The county's court case relates to missing copies of county personnel files that Marchus used for his supervisor files.

The county learned Marchus had such files at the end of February and asked for their return. Marchus promptly returned nine files, but the county said there are at least two missing.

The county has said Marchus has the files, but Marchus has denied such claims.

The county's complaint, filed in District Court on March 23, asks that the court require Marchus to return duplicate files, give a permanent injunction preventing Marchus from disclosing information in the files, and make Marchus pay the county court costs and other relief. Marchus continues to say he does not have the files.

District Judge Michael O'Hara was recused from the case, and it was reassigned to Senior Judge Edwin Ruland.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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