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DETR director ‘not a very attractive position,’ recruiter says

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The state with the highest unemployment rate in the country as of May is going into its fourth week without a director to run the employment office.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday that “we’re working on” getting a new director and that “hopefully it will be soon.”

Interim director Heather Korbulic cited threats to her safety when she resigned from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation on June 19, seven weeks after she replaced former director Tiffany Tyler-Garner, who also resigned from the job.

In the June 19 announcement, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office said he would name a new DETR director within a week.

On June 24, Sisolak said he would announce a new director as soon as possible.

“It was a difficult situation, Ms. Korbulic did a great job,” Sisolak said Wednesday. “She worked hard to get this resolved, but you know, everybody’s under a lot of scrutiny and (she) took a lot of public criticism, and the threats just got to be too much for her family to be able to continue.”

Sisolak named Korbulic interim director three days after Tyler-Garner’s departure, but it has taken longer to announce a third director during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s unclear what is behind the lag, though job recruiting experts think the threats made against Korbulic are likely among a few factors at play.

Thousands of Nevadans are frustrated as they continue to wait for state benefits after first applying in March. There were 22,011 traditional unemployment claims for the week ending June 27 that have not been paid, according to DETR data.

DETR previously has directed questions about the search for a new director to the governor. Sisolak’s office didn’t respond to additional questions about the search for a new director.

‘Not a very attractive position’

“I certainly don’t envy the position that he’s in,” said Jason Bruckman, vice president of sales for recruitment firm Eastridge Workforce Solutions, said, referencing Sisolak. “It’s a near-impossible situation.”

Under normal circumstances, employers typically identify the most important traits they seek in a candidate and find someone who’s passionate about the job, he said.

Government employers often first look locally to have a better chance finding a candidate passionate about the community, Bruckman said. They then may turn their attention elsewhere to find candidates in similar cities or states who could replicate successes in the new job.

But these aren’t normal circumstances, and the director job is “not a very attractive position” these days, Bruckman added.

“To have two people leave within a six-week period and for the most recent to leave amongst death threats, that’s gonna be a hard position to recruit for.”

Korbulic’s resignation announcement didn’t specify what kind of threats she received, but frustrated claimants have circulated her home address online. She declined to comment.

Reached by phone Wednesday, former director Tiffany Tyler-Garner declined to answer questions about her time leading DETR or the circumstances around her own departure.

“I can’t really speak to those things,” Tyler-Garner said.

Tyler-Garner received $122,250 last year in regular pay and $153,594.54 in total pay and benefits as DETR director, according to Transparent Nevada. That’s in line for the position and likely not a factor in hiring for the job, Bruckman said.

The high unemployment rates and intense scrutiny alone probably wouldn’t scare off a qualified candidate from seeking the position, according to Careers in Government Inc. CEO Corey Hurwitz. The public spotlight comes with the territory, and the unemployment rates are under extraordinary and, “hopefully,” temporary circumstances, she said.

Threats and concerns about sufficient support and resources to do the job are more likely to discourage a candidate’s interest, Hurwitz said.

“Police and fire personnel, doctors, and nurses are accustomed to inherent personal safety risks while performing their routine duties; agency managers are not, and it is highly unsettling,” Hurwitz said.

She added that multiple public health officials across the country have resigned because of threats and employment officials are similarly receiving threats.

Hawaii’s director of employment took a temporary leave of absence after previously testifying to a state House committee that his department employees were receiving death threats over claim-filing issues, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported last month.

Pennsylvania State Police accused a 61-year-old man of threatening Gov. Tom Wolf’s family after he couldn’t get a hold of the unemployment office and straighten out his benefits situation, the Bucks County Courier Times reported in April.

‘Get it right’

The timeline for a permanent director depends on hiring and recruitment protocols that could extend the process for weeks or months, Hurwitz said. Interim directors can fast-track the process.

It’s a process that “is as much dependent on agency requirements as on the abundance of qualified and interested applicants,” she said.

Bruckman said the governor’s office understands the importance of the hire and is likely looking for a candidate who is passionate, qualified and has the ability to work under intense pressure.

It’s important Sisolak takes time to “get it right,” he said, and find a possible long-term solution to the position. If not, Bruckman said, the state might soon be searching for its fourth unemployment director since the statewide shutdown.

“If someone loves to take challenges head on, this is a role for them because it’s not gonna be easy,” Bruckman said.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Bill Dentzer contributed to this report.

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