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Power grab? Or the right intention? Why does staffing move smell fishy?

There’s an unfortunate game of monkey in the middle being played right now in county government.

It threatens to upset the balance of power between two elected offices — the board of commissioners and the controller.

We’re not sure if the monkey is the four staffers whom the commissioners voted to transfer from the controller’s office to the budget and finance department, or if it’s the taxpayers and electorate.

But we are certain that it smells fishy.

The commissioners say the move is intended to improve fiscal affairs and claim there have been a number of mistakes. Their intention is to provide better training for the four employees by moving them to the budget and finance department.

But is that all there is to it?

“This isn’t about a power grab,” claimed Commissioner Scott Metzger.

Not so, claimed Controller Krista Rogers, who said moving staff from her office is “illegal” and in violation of county code.

“They are eliminating the controller’s office as the lawful check and balance of county expenditures,” she said, insisting that the four employees will remain in her office and will not be moving.

“My employees still work for me. I do not acknowledge the steps you took today,” Rogers told the commissioners when the vote was taken.

The legality of the measure notwithstanding, the move puts the staffers in the uncomfortable position of being forced to be disloyal to their employer, one way or the other.

And it leaves taxpayers wondering who is watching out for them, given this strike at the bite of the county’s chief fiscal watchdog.

While we endorse the idea of taking action to improve fiscal affairs, in general, we don’t believe this is the way to do it.

The controller’s office should have the ability to hire staff in line with its budget without the threat that those employees will be moved to the very office whose work they were hired to inspect.

And they should be afforded the ability to do their jobs without being blocked by the now-retired county fiscal services director — as alleged by Rogers — or anyone else.

Please, tell us — honestly — that didn’t happen.

All of this just raises questions about how the county is being managed.

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