South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Crestwood aldermen could consider OK of civil-service code this month

Aldermen to determine Civil Service Board’s powers, employees’ dollar limit to report gifts

Changes to Crestwood’s civil-service code tentatively are slated to be considered by aldermen in late March, but additional alterations to those proposals still might be needed.

During a Feb. 27 work session, aldermen agreed to later determine the Civil Service Board’s powers and duties and the appropriate dollar amount for employees to report gifts and gratuities.

Mayor Roy Robinson said the issues of powers and gratuity amounts likely would be resolved during the meeting when the Board of Aldermen votes on the proposed changes to the civil-service code.

City Administrator Frank Myers has said he anticipates that decision could come at the board’s March 27 meeting.

The 61-page document of proposed changes to the city’s civil-service code, which was last updated in 1996, was the product of 16 meetings during which the Civil Service Board met in 2006.

Catherine Barnes, Martha Duchild and Gretchen Huston were appointed by Robinson and began meeting last March.

Aldermen last week did accept a handful of changes to the originally proposed civil-service code. These include a short statement indicating the city is not following its pay plan adopted in 2003 and the inclusion of additional elected officials’ family members who are not allowed to be hired by the city. The previously proposed ban on hiring elected officials’ family members was confined to “the husband, wife, brother-in-law or sister-in-law of any person then holding a city elective office.”

The new section retains those same four family members, but also adds the brother, sister, father, mother, son or daughter of an elected official to the list of people who cannot be hired by the city.

Huston suggested to aldermen that a section of the proposed civil-service code allowing the Civil Service Board to conduct investigations be modified to only investigate changes to the civil-service rules or employee policies.

“The problem that we had last time was that we might be investigating things that you didn’t want us to investigate,” Huston said to aldermen. “So I have suggested rewording that because we don’t want to snoop into anybody’s business. We don’t want to. What we think that meant was what I’ve written here. Make any investigation which it may deem desirable concerning appropriate changes or additions to the civil-service rules for classified employees or procedures or general policies that unfairly or adversely affect classified employees and report to the Board of Aldermen at least once a year in writing and make recommendations. We aren’t trying to get into the business of the city except if it relates to policies that we might want to recommend.”

The previously proposed section regarding the Civil Service Board’s investigative powers stated that the board could make “any investigation which it may deem desirable concerning the administration of personnel in the municipal service and report to the Board of Aldermen at least once a year in writing on its findings, conclusions and recommendations.”

Aldermen also will later consider a dollar amount for the limit at which employees must report gifts. The originally proposed revision proposes dropping the required dollar amount to report gifts from $100 to $50.

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland said he does not believe the city’s current gifts and gratuities policy has caused any problems and therefore is not persuaded to alter it “for the sake of making change.”

“As far as the gifts and gratuities, I’ll go back to what I said before about what the voters had to say in the last election,” Bland said. “I don’t know if there’s a need for change just for the sake of making change.

“If it’s been at a hundred dollars and there haven’t been any problems, I quite frankly don’t see the need to change it. Just as with the relatives and that part of this document, I don’t see nor am I inclined to support changing those two sections just for the sake of making changes. What we’ve had has worked. Although it’s been inactive for a number of years, it’s worked. It hasn’t created any problems. I don’t think we need to go looking for problems that to this point haven’t existed.”

Huston responded that she believes new restrictions on employees accepting gifts and gratuities are needed so that the city could prevent any misconceptions.

“I do not understand why employees should get gratuities of any value when they’re paid for their work,” Huston said. “In fact, the federal government does not allow you to take gratuities without reporting them. And then they have a very low limit on even if somebody buys you lunch … I can picture that you would never know until somebody’s squealed whether or not there was a problem. I have a friend who works for the county. And he has had many occasions when he’s gone out to inspect restaurants. He doesn’t work for them anymore. Where somebody would say: ‘Well, if you just forget that, I’ll clean it up before your next review and I’ll make it worth your while.’ You know, it’s very easy to make a lot of money by just hinting that you can overlook this if you’re in that kind of a job. And I don’t know if we have any of those jobs. But it happens a lot.”

But Huston said she is not opposed to work units or employee groups receiving gratuities awarded to a group as a whole.

Myers expressed practicality concerns on the gifts and gratuities policy similar to those he held at a Jan. 30 work session.

“I think, although very well intentioned, I have some questions regarding the practicality of this type of guidelines,” he said. “I do think that given where this community has been and issues of public trust that are still clouded out there, I fully understand why there are the concerns that exist. I am concerned about the practicality. There’s a danger here of individuals who have an agenda going on a witch hunt over these types of things and people getting damaged as a result. And I know personally that if the concern of the community is that we’ve got unethical people who are not going to use good, professional judgment in accepting dinner, offers for dinner or a ticket or something, then I know my practice will be I won’t go to any of those kind of things.

“Or I will insist that I pay for my own. And maybe in the federal government that’s exactly what they do. That is not the culture here in St. Louis. With that said, I am not lobbying to get a free meal. The mayor knows. I don’t want these tickets because the very fact that you go, in some people’s mind, is going to be that you’re on the take. And my reputation is too important to me. I know of other staff people that fill out the form, go to ball games. Under these kind of guidelines, I doubt that they will in the future go.

“And if that’s the intent of this board and the civil service commission, then so be it. But I just think it’s well intentioned, but it’s going to have some negative effects that are going to be unfortunate for our community.”

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