County expands employee drug testing

Mesa County will expand its random drug testing policy to include employees whose jobs require them to drive, a move administrators say is aimed at enhancing public safety on local roadways.

Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a policy change that covers 157 county workers in designated “essential driving positions.”

Those employees will join the approximately 225 employees who are already subjected to random drug testing, including those in the Criminal Justice Services Department, the Sheriff’s Department and those who hold commercial driver’s licenses, County Human Resources Manager Sandy Perry said.

The revision, which takes effect Aug. 1, means more than one-third of the county’s roughly 1,000 employees will have to randomly submit urine samples to make sure they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job.

Perry told commissioners 10 percent of the 157 employees will be tested annually. The tests will be conducted quarterly, meaning some four employees will be tested every three months.

One county employee who will fall under the expanded umbrella of random drug testing objects to the change.

County Weed and Pest Inspector Judith Sirota called the policy discriminatory and said it violates her Fourth Amendment rights to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

“My office has higher priority than my body under this policy,” she said, noting that her office could be searched for drugs, but only if authorities had probable cause to do so.

Assistant County Attorney Angela Luedtke, however, told commissioners the courts have upheld public employers’ rights to randomly test certain employees.

County Road and Bridge Supervisor Eric Bruton applauded the county for subjecting more employees to drug and alcohol testing and said the random testing policy should apply to all county employees.

Commissioners Craig Meis and Janet Rowland noted they, too, would like all employees to be tested at random.

But they said county legal staff has indicated that may not withstand a legal challenge.

In other business:

Commissioners unanimously agreed to allow a Grand Junction engineering firm’s bid to be considered among others for a contract to design an eight-mile section of the Colorado Riverfront Trail between Redlands Parkway and the Colorado Welcome Center in Fruita.

Mark Reitz, director of purchasing and risk management for the county, had initially eliminated Drexel, Barrell & Co. from consideration for the contract because the firm had failed to sign a particular document as part of its bid.

But county commissioners said there was some ambiguity in the process and allowed Drexel, Barrell & Co. to join 12 other firms competing for the contract.


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