While the Crestwood Civil Service Board recently voted to investigate 10 Police Department pay raises and the use of city resources to promote a now-failed tax-rate increase, the city’s administration has halted those investigations.
City Administrator Jim Eckrich believes that the City Charter and Crestwood’s civil-service rules and regulations do not empower the Civil Service Board to investigate personnel administration or city employees.
The Civil Service Board voted 3-0 Aug. 28 to conduct a private investigation of the legitimacy of 10 Police Department pay raises that went into effect May 15 before the Board of Aldermen approved them during a July 8 closed session.
The Civil Service Board also voted unanimously Aug. 28 to investigate whether the use of the city’s newsletter and reverse-911 system to promote July town-hall meetings led by the campaign committee Crestwood Residents for Prop 1 violated the city’s civil-service code. But Eckrich maintained in a letter delivered last week to Civil Service Board Chairwoman Martha Duchild that while the Civil Service Board can advise the city administrator and aldermen on personnel administration, it cannot investigate employees.
“It is not in their authority to investigate employees,” Eckrich said. “There are two provisions in the code which the Civil Service Board is referencing regarding these two issues. One is the provision that says to advise the Board of Aldermen and director of personnel on the problems concerning personnel administration. I respond in my letter that it is my opinion that the Civil Service Board has the authority to advise the mayor, Board of Aldermen and city administrator regarding problems that may be related generally to personnel administration. While this might include the use of 911 and the newsletter and the Police Department salary adjustments … this section of the code does not provide the Civil Service Board the authority to investigate problems related to personnel administration.”
Eckrich also noted that Section 18-7 of the city code, which aldermen revised in April 2007 to give investigative powers to the Civil Service Board, only allows the Civil Service Board to investigate “changes or additions to civil-service rules” or “procedures or general policies that unfairly or adversely affect classified employees.”
But in a statement to Eckrich, Duchild said she does not believe neither the city administrator nor City Attorney Robert Golterman, with whom Eckrich said he consulted, has the authority to determine if a Civil Service Board investigation has merit.
And because the Civil Service Board also agreed to investigate whether aldermen received proper legal advice from Golterman in approving the Police Department pay raises almost two months after they were implemented, Duchild believes Golterman has a conflict of interest in determining whether an investigation is needed.
“… I find it troubling that the city attorney consulted the city administrator in matters where the city attorney’s advice to the BOA concerning those matters be called into question during the CSB’s investigation,” Duchild said. “Furthermore, nowhere in the city Charter, Municipal Code, or Civil Service Rules and Regulations is the city administrator authorized to interfere with an investigation initiated by the CSB.”
Duchild further states that Section 18-7 of the city code, which Eckrich cited in determining that the Civil Service Board can’t investigate employees, does not match the description of the Civil Service Board’s powers and duties in Chapter 1, Section 8 of the Civil Service Rules and Regulations that were to be revised in that municipal code.
Chapter 1, Section 8 states that the Civil Service Board “shall have the power and be required to … make any investigation which it may deem desirable concerning the administration of personnel in the municipal service …”
The city administrator also cited Sections 3.6 and 3.11 of the City Charter, which he said allow only the Board of Aldermen to conduct investigations of city employees.
Section 3.11 states: “Upon approval by three-quarters of its authorized membership, the Board of Aldermen may make investigations into the affairs of the city and the conduct of any city department, office or agency …”
Section 3.6 states: “Except for the purpose of inquiries and investigations under Section 3.11 of this charter, the Board of Aldermen or its members shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city administrator solely through the city administrator, and neither the Board of Aldermen nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately.”
Because of these sections, Eckrich believes that the Civil Service Board cannot investigate city employees.
“The crux behind my letter is I feel like if the Civil Service Board interprets the code the way they have, the code would conflict with the charter,” he said. “The charter in Section 3.11 describes how investigations are conducted. And I don’t believe that the code was meant to be taken in the manner the Civil Service Board has taken it. And I think that if you read it that way, my opinion is that it conflicts with the code. And I’ve reviewed that with our city attorney.”
But Duchild said that Sections 3.6 and 3.11 of the charter apply only to the Board of Aldermen — not the Civil Service Board.
“Nowhere in the charter or Municipal Code does it state that the BOA has exclusive authority to conduct investigations, so the city administrator’s assertion that only the mayor and BOA may authorize an investigation into the affairs of the city is completely without merit,” Duchild said. “Further, to assert that the CSB’s decision to initiate an investigation conflicts with the charter is patently untrue. The BOA and the CSB are both authorized to conduct investigations. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the provisions of the charter, Municipal Code and (Civil Service Rules and Regulations).”
Duchild also states that Golterman permitted the Civil Service Board to investigate employees in 2007.
“I would remind the city attorney that he has already set a precedent for allowing the CSB to interview employees,” Duchild said. “This happened last year when the CSB heard a grievance appeal, and the city attorney was present during several of these employee interviews. If the CSB is allowed to investigate the actions of city employees and conduct interviews during a grievance appeal, why would this authorization be suspended during an investigation initiated by the CSB?”
In halting the investigations, Eckrich said he simply is trying to put behind a situation that occurred before he was promoted to city administrator and move Crestwood “forward.”
“My take on this is I became city administrator July 14,” he said. “I stated in my entire interview process and to anybody who would listen that I’m interested in moving the city forward. The things that are being referenced were done before I was here. And I’m just not going to get into those things unless the board by a majority requires that I do so.
“I have nothing personally against anybody on the Civil Service Board. There is nothing personally in this for me other than hopefully not but possibly creating some enemies I don’t want to create. I’m just doing what I believe I’m required to do in my position with the city.”
Duchild replied to Eckrich that his refusal is an “inconsistent” approach to following city laws.
“Your stated intention to move the city forward from the time of your appointment requires that the inconsistent application of the laws, possible violations of the laws and unfair treatment of employees be swept under the carpet …,” Duchild said.
“There are two ways to resolve the issues at hand: Allow the CSB to do the job it is legally authorized to do and for which it was in part created, or proceed with the self-serving, inconsistent application and interpretation of existing laws. I urge you to reconsider your decision to refuse the CSB’s request to interview employees in connection with these investigations. The community, and more importantly, your own staff, need to know that the checks and balances put in place to protect them are functioning as they should.”