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Island County human resources director loses job

Island County commissioners fired the human resources director last week and will soon begin the process of finding a permanent replacement.

It’s a move that has little effect on the public — since the human resources director only interacts with county employees and applicants — but it does have a modest cost, which is bad news at a time when the county is struggling with a budget deficit.

Larry Larson, a 64-year-old Oak Harbor resident, said he was notified of his termination on April 21, which was also his last day. He said he isn’t able to discuss the reasons for the actions.

Commissioner John Dean said he and his fellow commissioners were concerned about the level of service Larson had been providing his customers, which were the county employees.

“He wasn’t meeting the level we wanted and we wanted to make a change,” he said.

Likewise, Commissioner Helen Price Johnson indicated in an email that the board wanted the HR department to offer “enhanced staff support and customer service.”

The commissioners met in a number of executive sessions to discuss Larson, according to documents obtained through a documents request.

Larson signed a “settle agreement and release” before leaving the county. Under the agreement, he will receive a settlement payment of $21,906, which is four-months’ salary, in exchange for agreeing not to file a lawsuit or bring any claim against the county. He also agreed not to make any disparaging comments about the county or its employees.

In addition, the commissioners agreed to pay Larson $75 an hour to work as a consultant and help with the transition.

South Whidbey resident John McFarland, a retired human resources professional and former city administrator for Tukwila, immediately stepped in as interim HR director. He volunteered last year to help the commissioners hire a new planning director. This time, he said his main job will be to help find a permanent HR director, but he will also handle any personnel issues that come along.

Dean said McFarland will likely work part-time and he will earn $35 an hour, which he said was a great deal for the county. Most consultants earn in excess of $100 an hour, Dean indicated.

Dean said he expects that the pool of applicants should be high quality, with so many people looking for jobs in the current economy. He hopes to hire a permanent replacement in two to three months.

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