Crestwood aldermen start review of proposed civil-service rules’ impact

First of two parts


After poring through recently available minutes of 16 Civil Service Board meetings that took place in 2006, Crestwood aldermen have turned their attention to how the newly proposed civil-service code will affect city employees.

At a Jan. 30 work session, the Board of Aldermen agreed to have the Civil Service Board further review various proposals in the 61-page document.

Some of the proposals that aldermen directed the Civil Service Board to further study are a section allowing family members of city employees to run for elective office, a stipulation designating the mayor and city administrator as city spokesmen and a federally mandated alcohol/drug-testing policy for safety-sensitive employees.

Civil Service Board member Martha Duchild said she and fellow board members Catherine Barnes and Gretchen Huston in-tended to include the language from a municipal-code ordinance passed in 1965 that prohibits elected officials’ family members from city employment.

But Assistant City Administrator Justina Tate said that Chapter 3, Section 10 of the proposed code, which bars only the husband, wife, brother-in-law and sister-in-law of an elected official from holding office, mistakenly left out further restricted family members detailed in the 1965 ordinance.

“There is a section missing out of this from the ordinance that was originally drafted,” Tate said. “And it reads who is related as the husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law …”

City Attorney Robert Golterman said a draft of a proposed ordinance that he was directed to write last year was included in the proposed civil-service code.

“The language that is in here now is reflective of an ordinance that I was directed to draft eight, 10 months ago that was never brought to the Board (of Aldermen),” he said. “So when we got to revising the rules and regulations, I gave a copy of that ordinance to Justina as relates to this section. And that’s what was included in the draft and went back to the Civil Service Board.”

Mayor Roy Robinson said he instructed Golterman last year to draft the proposed ordinance to allow city employees’ family members to run for elective office and for those city employees to not lose their positions if family members are elected.

“What I’d asked him to do before is how it’s written now,” Robinson said. “That’s to ensure that an employee cannot be removed merely because somebody from his family decides to run for elective office … If you dismiss somebody because their relative ran for office for your city, they cannot only get their job back, but they can get money from the city for losing that position. So I think in 1965, they might have got away with it. I don’t think they can get away with that today. I think it’s probably unconstitutional.

“I think somebody who lives as a citizen in the community and is qualified to run, no matter who it is, should have the right to run. That’s America. America allows you to file and do it as long as you meet qualifications. And of course, for you to deny somebody a job who had worked for any period of time, if you as a city deny that job, I think we’re opening up the city for a big lawsuit unnecessarily.”

Golterman agreed that the city would be at risk if an employee were fired as a result of a family member being elected.

“I think there’s certainly some risk there,” Golterman said. “That’s why I was in favor of drafting the language.”

However, Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland noted such a proposal would require a change to the 1965 ordinance. He questioned how appropriate it would be to change the municipal code’s language after voters rejected four of five City Charter amendments in November.

“I think with that, you’ve got to be very careful about perception,” Bland said. “And I think that’s a fine line. You know, I’m going to say my two cents on this whole thing. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. We had several amendments before the citizens of this city in November that were resoundingly voted down because it was proposing a lot of change. And I guess I’m looking at this saying if it wasn’t in there before, don’t cut charter language or ordinance language. You might be better off just leaving things alone. Change the language in this that we have to be consistent with federal guidelines … I’m fine with that. I’m thinking we’re starting to now skirt and change and form things. I can’t support that.”

Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel also said he could not support a section naming the mayor and city administrator as city spokesmen and recommended that aldermen strike the mayor being designated a city spokesman.

Golterman responded that while the proposal likely should be rewritten, it should explain that civil-service employees are not permitted to speak with the media on behalf of the city.

“Because this deals with classified-service employees, the purpose here is, I believe, to say what the classified-service employees should not be doing,” he said. “It ought to probably be rewritten to state that no one in classified service without the permission of the city administrator can speak about city business on behalf of the city to the media. And then the board can deal with, in a separate issue, can deal with who is the appropriate party in the administration whether it’s the mayor, the city administrator or whomever to deal with the media.”

Aldermen also discussed expanding the proposed alcohol/drug testing policy for safety-sensitive employees to all employees. It was agreed that the Civil Service Board later would review the feasibility of such a policy, which prompted Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder to inquire when it could be enacted.

“As far as the drug policy or testing policy, we’ve got one established for safety-sensitive positions,” Nieder said. “But we still do not have one established for the rest of the work force within the city. But we are going to work on that in the manual and have it done by when?”

“You’re starting to sound like somebody sitting out in the audience,” Robinson said.

“No, I’m just …,” Nieder said.

“I mean, there is no date set,” Robinson interjected. “We’re trying to clean this up … There’s no date set to have that done. We may have it by summer. OK? I don’t know. I’m not writing it myself. Somebody else will be assigned to do that.”

“I understand that,” Nieder said. “But we’re implementing a policy here that’s part of the personnel. And the other, we’re working on. I’m just simply asking when we’re thinking about getting it done. That’s all I’m asking.”

“Well, what I’m saying is I don’t have the schedule here and I’m not the one that will be putting it together and I’m not going to say it’s going to be done in two weeks or three weeks when in fact somebody else has got to to do it,” Robinson said. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. We’ve stated we’re going to do it, so wait until it’s done. There’s no, there’s no … I’m not in a rush. I don’t know who else is, but I’m not.”

“Can we just identify the next step of when that might take place?” said board President Jerry Miguel of Ward 3.

“Are you trying to irritate me, too?” Robinson asked.

“No, nobody’s trying to irritate you,” Nieder said. “We understand there’s a timeline …”

“OK, I understand,” Robinson said. “What I’m saying is …”

“I’m just trying to kind of get it redirected back to ask it,” Miguel interjected.

“And the other thing is you bring up the fact about the other policy,” Robinson said. “Didn’t we just establish that we’re going to start with the Civil Service Board review and come up with a policy that we’d bring it to the board to discuss? That’s what was just said before. And then you’re saying: ‘What are we going to do about this policy?’

“I just merely asked,” Nieder said. “I don’t know why you’re getting all aggravated. All I asked for is what kind of a …”

“Well, I don’t like people asking me what date I’m going to have something ready,” Robinson interjected. “I’m not in the date business.”

A few minutes later, Nieder declined to comment when called upon by Robinson.

“I don’t have anything else,” Nieder said. “I wouldn’t dare say anything else at this point.”

Robinson replied, “I apologize again.”

Next week: Aldermen continue their review of how proposed rules will impact city employees.