EVANSTON — Uinta County Veterans Board chairman Josh Buhmann confirmed at an April 25 meeting that Veterans Service Officer Nellie Richins had been placed on leave earlier that day.
“Nellie’s been placed on administrative leave until May 20,” Buhmann told the handful of veterans in attendance at the meeting, “so she won’t be taking service calls from veterans anymore. We had a personnel issue; that’s really all I can say, because there are privacy requirements. I can’t say exactly [what the circumstances were], but it was an imminent issue we needed to address by the commissioners and the board.”
Richins has already indicated her intention to resign from the position on May 31. The county is looking at options for maintaining the position — including partnering with neighboring Sweetwater County — in the wake of new federally-mandated annual recertification requirements for the post. Those requirements will likely cost the county several thousand dollars each year, according to officials.
The veterans at the April 25 meeting were primarily concerned with the security of their personal files stored at the courthouse, however, and who would have access to them until a new veterans service officer assumes the post.
“We’ve got numerous file cabinets that are in Nellie’s office that contain a lot of our private military records,” veteran Joe Don Raymer told the board. “Plus, there were numerous times I could talk to Nellie about stuff that was legally top secret. …Is it going to be a situation where, if someone wants to sneak in there, they can get to our files?”
Buhmann said he had discussed that specific concern with Uinta County Commissioner Leonard Hysell earlier in the day. He said the vets board planned to appoint a member to conduct an inventory of the files and maintain security of the documents until the VSO position is replaced.
“It will not be public access,” Buhmann said. “It won’t even be accessible to other county employees — it will be restricted.”
Buhmann also said active claims from county veterans will continue to be processed, with the help of Laura Cooper, a veteran and a new staff member with the Uinta County Attorney’s Office.