City attorney to further study civil-service rule proposals

By EVAN YOUNG

After taking another look at a series of changes to the rules for city employees, the Crestwood Civil Service Board voted last week to table re-recommending two of those modifications to the Board of Aldermen.

Civil Service Board members voted Sept. 1 to give the city attorney more time to review the Civil Service Rules and Regulations section on employee political activity, and to give themselves more time to look over an employee drug and alcohol policy their predecessors drafted last year.

The Civil Service Board recommended in July that the Board of Aldermen approve seven modifications to the rules and regulations, which were proposed by City Administrator Jim Eckrich.

But aldermen decided to delay the issue Aug. 11 after it was noted that not all of them had a copy of the current rules.

In his motion to table the decision, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel also asked that the Civil Service Board be informed of concerns he and former Civil Service Board member Martha Duchild had about some of the proposed modifications that evening.

Among the revisions called into question were the changes to the rules’ section on city employee political rights and restrictions — Chapter 2 — as well as the employee drug and alcohol policy — Chapter 13. As previously reported, the first statement of the political activity section — which prohibits employees from using city resources or their position to contribute to or influence a political campaign, party or cause — would remain intact.

The modifications begin in the following two sentences, which currently read, “City employees may not participate in, or assist any candidate for, elections to city office except by individual ballot. Any employee may, however, participate or contribute to the election or appointment of public officials to offices outside the political jurisdiction of the city of Crestwood.”

The proposed revision removes the first sentence completely and changes the second to read, “Any employee may, however, participate in or contribute to a political candidate, political party or political cause so long as such participation or contribution occurs during the employee’s personal time and does not involve the use of any city resources.”

City Attorney Rob Golterman has said that, in his opinion, the current civil-service rules’ section on political activity is inconsistent with state and federal laws “regarding one’s constitutional rights to participate in the political process” and warranted the proposed amendment.

But allowing employees to openly participate in city politics appears to conflict with a provision in Article 13 of the City Charter, which states, “No city employee shall solicit any contribution for the campaign fund of any candidate for Crestwood city office or take part in the political campaign of any candidate for Crestwood city office.”

Golterman said recently that he doesn’t believe the two documents contradict. He said the charter can be — and should be — interpreted in such a way that city employees, as private citizens, have the right to be politically active. However, Eckrich said last week the city attorney wanted more time to review the issue.

The civil-service rules’ political activity section could be amended to include the phrase “as private citizens” to clarify when city employees can participate in city politics — or to include, verbatim, the charter’s language on political activity, Eckrich said.

“It’s been a very difficult topic for us because as an employer, you don’t want (employees) involved with these things,” he told the Civil Service Board last week. “However, they do have rights and you don’t want to enact legislation which infringes upon those rights.”

The Civil Service Board last week also revisited the proposed change to the city’s drug and alcohol policy for employees. Currently, the policy applies only to “safety-sensitive employees,” or “any employee who operates a commercial motor vehicle for the city and holds a commercial driver’s license …”

The modification adds language to the applicability section to include employees who aren’t safety-sensitive.

“Employees who do not perform safety-sensitive functions shall also refrain from using or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while on duty. Any such employee found using or believed to be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while on duty is subject to disciplinary action as defined (in the same chapter), including termination …,” according to the recommended new language.

However, last year the Civil Service Board — then comprised of Duchild, Catharine Barnes and Gretchen Huston — drafted an additional chapter, Chapter 14, on non-safety-sensitive employee substance abuse policy. They were directed to do so by the Board of Aldermen.

Approved minutes of the Aug. 28, 2008 Civil Service Board meeting state board members reviewed a list of questions Eckrich gave to Duchild about the policy. At the time, then-Assistant City Administrator Brian Gross recommended discussion “be tabled until the Civil Service Board is able to meet with Mr. Eckrich to discuss his inquiries.” The board voted to table the discussion, but did not meet again in an official capacity until July 22 — with all three board members from August 2008 replaced.

Eckrich has said the proposed addition to Chapter 13 reflects what the previous Civil Service Board wanted to accomplish by drafting a separate chapter.

However, Duchild said at the Aug. 11 Board of Aldermen meeting that, compared to the Chapter 14 draft, the proposed new paragraph for Chapter 13 is too vague.

She told the Civil Service Board last week the Chapter 14 draft was “almost a mirror copy” of Kirkwood’s drug and alcohol policy. The board also examined the drug and alcohol policies of three other municipalities, she said.

“The ones that we researched were all very detailed, and it was for the specific reason that you have to be explicit in what you are allowing the city to do and what rights they have, what rights the employees have, what you’re going to be testing, what you’re going to be looking for,” Duchild said. “There’s a lot of verbiage in there, but it’s for a reason.

“If you compress it to a paragraph, you risk being so vague that people don’t understand what their responsibilities are. The employees don’t understand what their responsibilities are. Supervisors don’t understand what their responsibilities are. So that is why everything in that chapter was explicit.”

After some discussion, the Civil Service Board voted to table any action on the alcohol and drug policy, but indicated that, after receiving input from city department heads, it would either expand the proposed Chapter 13 addition or consider adopting the Chapter 14 draft.