Council approves social worker job description, increases hourly rate of on-call public defenders

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas (middle row – far right) talks about the requirements of the city’s new social worker.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night approved a job description for a new social worker position, authorized the city to purchase the assets of the Edmonds Solar Cooperative, and agreed to increase the hourly rate of contract attorneys who fill in for public defenders when they have a conflict of interest.

The council had approved adding a social worker as part of the $500,000 allocated in the 2021 budget for a new human services department. At the top end of the salary range, the social worker would cost the city an estimated $130,000, which includes benefits.

Councilmembers spent quite a bit of time discussing the social worker job duties, and also debated the merits of keeping the job in-house as a staff hire versus contracting with an outside agency to fill the position.

Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty explained that the position’s main focus, as written, “is to help at-risk populations within Edmonds who are dealing with issues such as housing stress or homelessness, addiction, mental or behavioral health challenges, disabilities, isolation, among others, while decreasing barriers, providing resources, and finding alternatives to their current situation.” The idea is to have a position “that functions predominantly as a case manager to bridge the gaps left between other social services agencies, providers, law enforcement and/or emergency medical response and the social needs of people within the at-risk population,” he said.

The desired candidate would either have a master’s degree in a related field and two years of experience, at minimum, or a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience. The job description finally approved by the council does not require that the candidate be a licensed clinical social worker, although that licensure is listed as “desirable.” Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas attempted to add that requirement as an amendment — insisting based on her years of experience in the social services field that it would be critical for that person to be a clinical social worker. Someone with that credential, she said, would be able to immediately prescribe, for example, that a person needing drug treatment be admitted into a rehabilitation program — rather than waiting for approval from someone else with that credential.

“To me it makes absolutely no sense to hire somebody that can’t do the job we want them to do,” Fraley-Monillas said.

Councilmember Vivian Olson countered that such a credential would not be necessary if the city decided to contract with an outside nonprofit to hire a social worker, as that organization would have oversight over those types of arrangements.

“I don’t want us to be locking in to doing it in-house, which would be the only reason we would necessarily need that requirement to be there,” Olson said.

Councilmembers generally agreed that they wanted to keep their options open for hiring the new position — and that meant keeping the wording that a clinical social worker would be desirable but not required.  In the end, Fraley-Monillas withdrew her amendment after it was clear she didn’t have the votes to support that requirement.

Fraley-Monillas also attempted to add a amendment requiring that the social worker be an in-house employee, but that effort died for lack of a second.

The council did agree, however, with Fraley-Monillas’ suggestion that the position description be edited to include a broad range of people served, after she noted that the emphasis now was on addressing homelessness. And based on a suggestion from Council President Susan Paine, councilmembers also asked Doherty to expand on the supervisory responsibilities of the position.

Following a request by Councilmember Laura Johnson, Doherty assured councilmembers they would have another chance to review the job description before any decisions are made about how to fill the position.

As for purchasing the assets of the Edmonds Solar Cooperative, Public Works Director Phil Williams explained to the council that the city’s 10-year lease with the cooperative to have solar panels on the city-owned Frances Anderson Center building roof is expiring. Some of the solar panels have failed over time, and the cooperative is no longer interested in continuing the program. The cooperative offered to sell the equipment — part of which is still operational and generating electricity — to the city for $5,000. As part of the purchase, the cooperative will remove the non-working solar panels but leave the framework in case the city has an opportunity to install new solar panels at a later date, Williams added.

Regarding the approved attorney pay increase, this measure focused on the city’s use of conflict counsel — attorneys who fill in for the city’s public defenders when they have a conflict of interest with a case. For many years, that pay has been $50 an hour,which is very low when compared to how much those same attorneys can make doing other work — in some cases $300 an hour.

Presenter Robert C. Boruchowitz, assessor for Public Defense Services, recommended the council raise the rate to $125 an hour, and had proposed the city could phase in the increase over time if necessary. Councilmember Kristiana Johnson proposed the council do just that, with a $25-per-hour increase annually spread over three years. That idea was rejected on a 1-6 vote (K. Johnson the only one supporting) and ultimately councilmembers agreed 6-1 to increase the hourly rate from $50 to $125 (K. Johnson opposed).

The council also:

– Received the 2020 annual report from South County Fire and Rescue, which contracts with Edmonds to provides fire and emergency medical services. Fire Chief Thad Hovis and staff addressed the impact that COVID-19 had on operations in 2020 — from taking additional safety precautions while responding to medical calls to working closely with senior living communities. That effort carried into 2021, as South County Fire — along with 22 other Snohomish County fire agencies — assisted with several drive-thru and mobile sites for COVID-19 vaccinations. As of Feb. 15, South County Fire teams had vaccinated 132 residents and staff at 23 adult family homes in Edmonds.

During Tuesday night’s council meeting, South County Fire Chief Thad Hovis — top right– discusses efforts to help with COVID-19 vaccinations at adult family homes.

The report also included the agency’s emergency response metrics for Edmonds in 2020. Among the most notable: Total fire and EMS incidents were down in 2020 — a statistic also seen by other fire agencies due to stay-at-home measures required by the pandemic, and response times are longer due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Fire officials promised that councilmembers would have an opportunity to delve further into the statistics when the South County Fire commissioners and councilmembers hold a joint meeting in the near future.

 

– Heard a presentation on the city’s climate action efforts. This included a report from Development Services Director Shane Hope on the city’s work — with the help of a consultant — to update the city’s Climate Action Plan in 2021. The city sponsored a virtual open house Feb. 18, and plans to conduct a workshop and online survey in March. The Climate Action Plan update will identify actions the city needs to take and methods for measuring progress in reducing greenhouse gases, Hope said. Related to this, the council heard an annual report from the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee, which serves in an advisory role to further public education about climate issues.

– Approved an interim zoning ordinance that permits short-term leases between the city and Edmonds’ Driftwood Players and the Arts Festival Foundation for space the two organizations rent in the Edmonds Old Public Works building at Second and Dayton. This interim action will allow the city to continue to rent the space while resolving a recently discovered zoning conflict with the current building usage.

— By Teresa Wippel

 

  1. First, I love these summaries. Now I want to go back and listen to the meeting because I’m a little jealous that someone with only 2 years of experience in a position could make almost $130k/year… I’m sure there has to be more nuance to it. Ooof.

    1. Christine…..the person will only make about $100K a year with two years experience and no clinical license. The extra $30K will be in benefits. And will be supervised by the economic development director. Seems a bit high to me too.

      1. Christine and Sam,

        You are both correct, no nuance involved. The salary listed is quite high for this position. Here is a breakdown:

        A Compass Health position for a Child and Family Therapist (link below), requiring:

        * MA/MS/MSW Degree in a Behavioral Science related field.
        * Qualifies as a Mental Health Professional (MHP) as defined by WAC.

        Has a salary range of $19.5300 to $36.1200 Hourly, which is:

        $40,622/year to $75,129.60/year

        In contrast, the Edmonds City Council approved social work position requires (taken from Council packet for February 23, 2021, link below):

        “A Master’s degree in social work, counseling/behavioral health, psychology, nursing, or counseling or related field; and two (2) years’ experience”

        “OR Bachelor’s degree in social work, counseling/behavioral health, psychology, nursing, or counseling or related field and five (5) years’ experience”

        The yearly salary range is $79,488/year to $98,592/year

        From page 201 of Council packet of February 23, 2021 (link below):

        “The Pay Grade is NE-14 with a pay range of $6,624 to $8,216/month. With up to 32% in benefits, using the top monthly pay range, the annual cost to the City would be up to $130,141.44.”

        Link to social work position description in 2-23-21 Council agenda packet, see p. 200-210:
        http://edmondswa.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2793&Inline=True

        Link to Compass Health job announcement:
        https://workforcenow.adp.com/mascsr/default/mdf/recruitment/recruitment.html?cid=ebfeb8b6-8d00-4895-acee-e9d00c8131ca&ccId=19000101_000001&jobId=399443&source=CC2&lang=en_US&selectedMenuKey=CurrentOpenings

        Since applications are no longer being taken for this position, to access the description, click (on left menu): current openings, then click on the first position listed.

        1. Exactly, Joan! Who did the city do comparisons with?

          Snohomish County Human Services has a job of Community Services Counselor that sounds exactly like what Edmonds say they want. To provide responsible service delivery to: homeless clients and/or those at risk of becoming homeless or other low income persons. The range is $58,400 to $70,900.

          Edmonds is listed way too high and it doesn’t look like they did adequate comparison. What did the embedded social worker with the police make? It should be similar.

  2. I would like to know how many people the city anticipates a social worker would serve in our community. Is the number so great that a full time staff person is needed? Perhaps I missed that piece of data somewhere in the discussion?

    I think initially contracting out to a agency would make sense on several levels. Doing so would capitalize on the knowledge base of an established agency rather than one staff person and also it’s a cost effective way to see if services/information provided are truly helping those in need.

    Yes, we are dealing with people, however, we also need metrics in place to measure the effectiveness of our efforts.

  3. Needy: Leave. Vaccine shootings while you wait.

    A City Council Member reminded me of my concerns regarding confidentiality, and invited me to call into the Feb. 23 Council meeting. I thought, if I were still living in Edmonds, I would, but it would be best for Social Workers to do so. When no one phoned in on the subject, I was disappointed in myself.

    I can attest another human services position is throwing money at political sound bites. Exemplifying this, during the Housing Commission’s Work, the City guided the Commission and the Edmonds Citizens (the “preferred” easily accessible “stakeholders”) to block helping lower income, mentally ill, addicted, and people experiencing homelessness from receiving housing. There is not a need for another employee to compassionately say, “there is no room at the Edmonds Inn.”

    “You can have a case manager if you live on the streets or in your car and apply and are accepted to live in a shelter. Because you are disabled your are fortunate to go on the seven year housing waiting list.”

    Silly me, there is the current “I care” fad (due to COVID-19). Even untouchables are carriers.

    Edmonds wants needy people to leave, but while in town, get a vaccine shot, so you don’t infect locals.

    Today, I invested time to speak with a Human Services employee of Snohomish County who came across as highly familiar with social workers serving in mental health support capacities or who are embedded within law enforcement. As Edmonds Bullishly plows ahead, hopefully it will know & follow the confidentiality laws.

    From what I have heard, the predominating Edmonds culture, would prefer low resource, among other, individuals to move out of the city. Perhaps “the right” Social Worker can be an escort with a smile.

  4. Sam,

    Due to its length, this comment will be in two parts.

    Patrick Doherty, Economic Development Director, is responsible for the salary range and job description presented to Council for approval. Questions about the salary range should be directed to him.

    There are other serious concerns about this position. The SIX page job description enumerates responsibilities that will be performed by the hired individual without the supervision of a qualified health care professional. The City of Edmonds does not have systems in place to document consent to care or to ensure the confidentiality of client information. Also of concern is the potential liability exposure to the city should the hired clinician fail in their required “duty to report”.

    The article above says Council member Fraley Monillas advocated for an LICSW to fill the position:

    “insisting based on her years of experience in the social services field that it would be critical for that person to be a clinical social worker. Someone with that credential, she said, would be able to immediately prescribe, for example, that a person needing drug treatment be admitted into a rehabilitation program — rather than waiting for approval from someone else with that credential.”

    Council member Fraley-Monillas’ use of the word “prescribe” is inaccurate and misleading. Only physicians have prescriptive authority. Physicians prescribe medications and treatment to their patients. LICSWs , and all other licensed clinicians, can recommend treatment and, with their client’s agreement, facilitate admission to a rehabilitation program.

  5. Sam, Rebecca, and Lori,

    Part 2 of my comment. Rebecca, these comments reflect my agreement that “contracting out to a agency would make sense on several levels.” Lori, I have included concerns about client confidentiality as you expressed in your comment.

    Fraley Monillas is blatantly ignoring the client’s right to decline recommended or prescribed treatment. Under the Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA), individuals with serious mental health issues can be detained for 72 hours if they are determined by a designated Mental Health Professional (MHP) to be a danger to themselves or others, or to be gravely disabled. A Judge determines if the individual will be detained and treated beyond the 72 hour hold.

    ALL licensed clinicians have a “duty to report” any client who potentially presents a danger to themselves or others, or is gravely disabled. The City of Edmonds could be liable should the city’s hired licensed clinician fail in their “duty to report” and a client they are working with subsequently harms themself or others.

    Agencies such as Compass Health provide comprehensive services to those seeking help with mental health issues. The city of Edmonds Community Services program is not equipped to provide such services.

    Here is a link to my LTE speaking in opposition to allocation of an additional $500,000 (in COE 2021 budget) to the City of Edmonds Community Services Program:

    https://myedmondsnews.com/2020/11/letter-to-the-editor-spend-where-its-most-needed/

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