Crestwood aldermen consider recommended changes to civil-service rules

Work session expected to take place in late January

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood’s Civil Service Board has proposed new changes to civil-service rules and regulations to conform with new federal and state laws and current city policies.

But some of those changes were questioned last week during a Board of Aldermen meeting.

As a result, City Administrator Frank Myers said Friday that aldermen likely would meet in multiple work sessions to discuss the proposed civil-service rules. The first work session is anticipated to take place in late January.

Besides new civil-service rules and regulations, Mayor Roy Robinson said at the Jan. 9 meeting that the administration also is working to adopt a code of conduct for all city employees exempt from civil service.

Employees exempt from the civil-service rules include the city administrator, assistant city administrator, police chief, fire chief, director of public services, community and economic development manager, city attorney, prosecuting attorney, municipal court judge and all employees designated in contract, temporary or seasonal positions.

“There will be a document for the exempt employees,” Robinson said. “I call it a code of conduct. We’re going to put together a document that provides them with the information they need to know in doing business in the city of Crestwood. I’ve thought about what is expected that would occur. Not only as employees, but expected to operate under these guidelines. That will come out a little bit later.

“I believe, in the beginning, we were meshing some of those in the document … I had concern about putting those together and someone saying: ‘Well, I didn’t know this applied to me because it’s in the non-exempt portion and I’m exempt.’ We will cover them.”

The Civil Service Board — Martha Duchild, Gretchen Huston and Catherine Barnes — began meeting in March with what Duchild refers to as a “top priority” to revise civil-service rules and regulations that haven’t been updated in more than 10 years. Those members attended last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting, where they were greeted with questions ranging from why the rules should be approved without an employee pay plan to why certain vacant positions now would either be eliminated or classified as civil-service positions.

Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder expressed concern that a section in the proposed civil-service rules and regulations crosses out the city’s former pay plan and does not replace it with another.

Duchild responded that because the Civil Service Board does not support the pay plan that is in the city’s current civil-service rules and regulations, its members did not feel the need to include it.

Myers further explained that while the city still uses the former pay plan’s base salaries for new employees, he does not believe the city will be in the “financial condition” to approve a new pay plan for all employees in the near future.

“Given our financial condition, I don’t know that we’re going to be in a position to adopt an official pay plan next year,” Myers said. “I personally believe that given where our finances are that we’re going to be looking at considering — this board considering on an annual basis — some type of modest cost-of-living adjustment and that be about it for the next couple of years. And therefore to put in place a comprehensive pay plan that allows for steps and evaluations and merit, I don’t believe we’re going to be in a position to move forward with a comprehensive document like that from an affordability standpoint for a couple of years.”

Nieder suggested that the civil-service rules and regulations include a short statement explaining why the city has no current pay plan for its employees.

As for developing a pay plan in the future, Myers said that the past pay plan, which awarded raises based on merit and job performance, is too costly for the city to consider now and that the new plan should be controlled by affordability rather than merit pay.

Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby also questioned whether any current employees who are not civil service would have their job classification changed to civil-service status with the new changes.

Under Chapter 1, Section 4, of the proposed rules and regulations, the vacant positions of director of finance and director of parks and recreation no longer would be department heads, but civil-service posts.

Myers also indicated that the administration is considering eliminating the post of director of finance.

“I’m to assume that director of finance is no longer, if another director of finance is hired, is no longer a part of the exempt employees?” Roby said.

“The director-of-finance position no longer exists,” Duchild said.

“But that is still a position that the city holds open,” Roby said.

“This is what we were given by city staff that the assistant city administrator would replace the director of finance in this list,” Duchild said.

“Is that correct, city administrator?” Roby said. “We’ll no longer have a separate position for director of finance?”

“And we’re seeking board action to amend our code of ordinances to also reflect that,” Myers said.

Resident Karen Trueblood also questioned a section in the proposed civil-service rules and regulations that declares the mayor and city administrator as “the designated spokespeople for the city of Crestwood.”

Duchild responded that while the provision does not prevent employees from talking to the media, it does provide a regulation that discourages them from speaking on behalf of the city.

“The reason that was put in there was neither the mayor nor the city administrator is covered under the civil-service rules and regulations,” Duchild said. “That comment was for the benefit of the classified employees who are so that they knew that they were not allowed to speak on behalf of the city.”

Myers said the media/press relations section likely would be further discussed and probably refined to show which areas can be spoken about by different positions.

“I think, for example, information regarding a major announcement of a key business or something coming to the community, I would envision that would be the role of a mayor to make that key announcement,” Myers said. “Not a member of staff or not even the city administrator. That should be the mayor who makes those kind of key announcements about major initiatives and major development projects in the community. In terms of a personnel matter, that should be something that should come through the city administrator’s office.”

Other proposed changes to the civil-service rules and regulations also include new federal laws regarding sexual harassment and testing for alcohol and controlled substances. The city currently has no policy on alcohol and drug testing in its civil-service code.

The proposed civil-service regulations also include policy changes that include a provision that allows for the city attorney and Civil Service Board to have access to written reprimands of employees for five years, a rule that permits family members of elected officials to retain their positions with the city and a ban on dating or romantic relationships “between a supervisor/subordinate, between department heads or between the city administrator and any other employee.” The ban on dating between such individual city employees is attributed to “the potential for conflicts of interest, negative employee morale, and appearance of favoritism …”

With work sessions pending and more information requested from aldermen, Duchild said she hopes that aldermen remember that civil-service employees are currently working under an outdated code.

In a statement sent to the Call, Duchild said: “While Tuesday (Jan. 9) night’s meeting revealed a disagreement over how to proceed with the document review, I believe the city’s administration and aldermen recognize the importance of updating the civil-service rules and regulations and expect that all will work together with the Civil Service Board to accomplish this task as expeditiously as possible. The Civil Service Board members, along with city staff, worked diligently to produce this document, and I expect changes will be made as a result of the board’s review. However, the city’s classified employees have been without a current document for too long, and I think we owe it to them to finish this project as quickly as we can.”