We are pleased the La Plata County commissioners have backed away from their efforts to insert themselves - even temporarily - into the policy-setting positions for San Juan Basin Health Department. That would have been a disservice to the health organization's appointed board and staff leadership, and been too great a demand on their own time.
Instead, the department's governing board will include - as it does now - one country commissioner from La Plata County and one from Archuleta County. In addition, the two counties' managers will have seats. Appointed members will continue to fill the remaining positions.
State legislation has required that counties take a look at their public-health organizations with an eye toward making them as relevant and cost-effective as possible. That is appropriate. Public health organizations, including SJBHD, usually oversee and deliver a broad mix of preventive services funded by an equally diverse mix of government departments and programs. Most support comes from taxpayers.
La Plata County's commissioners, and its county manager, were too quick to announce last winter that the way to give the department a timely and successful look-over was to replace its board membership with commissioners from the two counties served by the organization. Instead of involving their constituents, many of whom have benefited from one or more of the department's services and had no complaints, and know its staff members, county leadership rolled out a PowerPoint presentation that contained a sequence of events with all the answers. With no one in county government able to point to anything that was broken, that autocratic decision-making did not play well. Dozens of people turned out - both in puzzlement and in opposition - to question the proposed coup.
In the coming months, we should learn the results of a financial audit of San Juan Basin Health Department and, after the new board is seated, at least the beginnings of an operational review. Former Durango City Manager Bob Ledger is the board's president, and should remain in that position; he is an asset.
The county commissioners overran the rabbit in their eagerness to unilaterally review the workings of the health department. Now they will step back and let some skilled community members apply their analytical abilities and perspectives as well. The results will be better.