Despite concerns of ex-member, Crestwood panel to meet less

By EVAN YOUNG

The Crestwood Civil Service Board is comfortable with changing its meeting frequency to “annually” from quarterly, even though a former member of the citizen advisory board says doing so will reduce the group’s visibility to city employees.

Board members voted Sept. 1 to leave as is a modification to the Civil Service Rules and Regulations that reduces the board’s meeting requirement to “annually” from “the first Tuesday in March, June, September and December.”

The amendment was part of a list of seven modifications to the rules City Administrator Jim Eckrich proposed to the Civil Service Board in July. The group approved them, but the Board of Aldermen subsequently sent the list back last month, with Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel claiming a reduction in the required number of meetings “seems to minimize the importance of the board.” However, when the issue came up last week, the Civil Service Board agreed to keep its meeting requirements amended as “annually.”

The board also added the Board of Aldermen to the rules’ list of city officials who can request a Civil Service Board meeting, along with the mayor, city administrator and Civil Service Board chair.

Among the Civil Service Board’s duties outlined in the Rules and Regulations are to “advise the Board of Aldermen and personnel director on the problems concerning personnel administration”; “hear appeals for disciplinary action”; and “render decisions on grievance appeals.”

“It doesn’t state that you can’t meet every month if you want to or whenever a meeting is called,” Chair Carol Wagner said of the amended rules. “It seems kind of time-consuming to have a meeting if there’s no agenda that has to be taken care of.”

But former Civil Service Board member Martha Duchild told Wagner and members Kevin King and Steve Knarr that reducing the meeting requirement also would reduce the board’s visibility to city employees, whom the board was created to serve.

“The employees need to know that there is an independent Civil Service Board that is active on their behalf, and that you are an independent body,” Duchild said. “Because in the case where there is a grievance appeal, once that appeal reaches the city administrator, the next step is to go to the Civil Service Board.

“That is the intent of having those quarterly meetings, that you have that link to the city … If you leave it annually, you may not find a reason to meet in a year. In the meantime, those employees have been without an independent body looking at their concerns for a year.”

Knarr said if an employee filed a grievance, then the board would meet.

Duchild said, “But in such instance it could be that you may be there to prevent a grievance from even happening.”

“I disagree, Martha,” Wagner said. “I don’t think that any employee that works for the city doesn’t know that they have an avenue to go to if they have a grievance.”

“That wasn’t what I was saying,” Duchild replied. “What I was saying is by being a part of personnel administration, you may be preventing certain things from happening and protecting employees from having to file a grievance in the first place.”

Duchild, Catharine Barnes and Gretchen Huston comprised the previous Civil Service Board. Aldermen approved Wagner, King and Knarr as their replacements in late 2008 and early 2009.

Duchild said that during her term on the board, the city administrator’s assistant would act as a liaison between the city administrator and Civil Service Board and provide reports at the board’s quarterly meetings about personnel concerns.

“It was just to keep those two bodies which are a couple in personnel administration active and in touch with the staff …,” she said. “So there are things to be done even though it’s not obvious, it’s not a grievance appeal, there are things that can be done in your service as the Civil Service Board to be that link in personnel administration.”

King said he had no problem meeting quarterly — even monthly — as long there was a reason to meet.

“That’s the issue …,” he said. “We have duties specified in the code, and that’s what we’re here to address. However that gets addressed, if that means that being here every quarter, being here six times a year, being here 12 times a year addresses those issues, then I’m in favor of it. But I don’t think that in reality is the case.

“So, the question really is, how do we address the concerns that you’ve (Duchild) raised, which I think are legitimate. That’s the real question. How do we do that mechanically? The answer to that question is, do we create our own agenda every two weeks, every month, every quarter, to seek out concerns, to seek out complaints, to seek out issues? Or do we wait until those issues are brought to us, which in my understanding of how the board has worked in the past, and how the code desires us to operate, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

“Jim (Eckrich) brings us issues, the mayor brings us issues, the (Board of Aldermen) brings us issues, the employees bring us issues, the liaison brings us issues,” King continued. “If that requires us to come up three nights in a week to deal with those issues, then we’re required to do that. However, until those issues are presented to us, we have no reason to get together. Again, I’m not trying to shirk the responsibility of getting together, just determine … the best way for those issues to be brought to us, and we’ll meet.”

Duchild reiterated that the Civil Service Board was an independent body and responsible for creating its own agenda.

“That is part of the reason that we have a Civil Service Board, is that you are not being dictated to by the administration — so that the employees see you as an independent body,” she said.

“See I disagree with you,” King said. “I don’t believe we are a policy-making body …”

Duchild replied, “I didn’t say you were policy-making.”

“Well then, we would be required to create our own agenda and deal with issues sui generis (by ourselves) if we are a policy-making board, but we are not,” King said.

“I did not say you were a policy-making board,” Duchild said.

“But then I don’t see a need to create our own agenda,” King replied. “I think we are out of line in creating our own agenda …”