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

Mehlville fire board adopts employee manual

Stegman driving force behind new manual, board chair says

A manual outlining policies and procedures for employees was adopted last week by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

The three-member Board of Directors — Chairman Aaron Hilmer, Treasurer Bonnie Stegman and Secretary Ed Ryan — voted unanimously Sept. 26 to adopt the Employee Manual of Policies and Procedures, or EMoPP, for 2007.

“The purpose of the EMoPP is to encourage and strengthen an orderly and harmonious relationship between the employees and the district,” the manual states. “This document shall provide a framework for employees to understand day-to-day operations of the district, benefits, employment policies and operational issues.”

The employee manual covers such policies and procedures as probation, personnel reduction, termination, salaries, benefits, minimum manning requirements, trade time, promotional guidelines, grievances, educational benefits, leaves of absence, sick leave, workers’ compensation, fit for duty and discipline.

Hilmer credited Stegman with being the driving force behind the EMoPP. Stegman told the Call that work began on the employee manual shortly after she and Hilmer were elected in April 2005, but really kicked into high gear last spring.

“… We’ve been working on it for a while and then really getting down to it pretty much this spring. I really wanted to get more focused so we could get this all together,” she said. “It’s been quite a process. We’ve been giving things back and forth to the union to look at, and we pretty much came up with what we wanted, I guess it was about a couple of months ago, and then did some revisions. They had some suggestions and the chief had some suggestions. So we looked at everything and then finally got our finalized version …”

Until Dec. 31, 2002, union employees had operated under a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that had been negotiated by the Board of Directors and Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. That three-year pact, approved in 1999, covered 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Asked to describe some of the differences between the new employee manual and the old MOU, Stegman said, “… It’s more formalized. It incorporates what’s actually happening. We’ve had all these changes with firefighter-medics coming. I think it’s a strengthening of administration … Like even in the grievance procedure, there was a union board, a grievance board formed, and they heard grievances and decided if it would even be a grievance before it could even go to the first-level supervisor … I’m like: This doesn’t make sense. If someone has a grievance, they have a grievance. No union member should decide if this person has a grievance. That just leaves it open to: ‘Well, if I like you, maybe you have a grievance. But if I don’t like you, you know.’

“I wanted to get all that favoritism out of there and so if you’ve got a grievance, you’ve got a grievance. You go to your first-level supervisor and try to solve it there. So it’s very clear cut, the steps. It ends with the chief and then the only time the board would hear it is if it would involve a loss of rank, a loss of pay or a loss of job. Then it could go up to the board. But other than that, that’s what you have an administration for is to take care of the day-to-day problems and that. So you don’t need to be running to the board with everything,” she said. “That was one of the major ones … We really cleaned that process up.”

Another difference is in the promotional guidelines for the rank of captain.

“… Even though we had just revamped the captain’s test and procedure, the procedure I think was a little bit too heavy on years in service,” she said. “It way outweighed even educational abilities and the interview and the actual test process. So I think I brought that into line a little bit more, cut down the number of points that were available for that. You still got credit for being there, but at the same time it didn’t out-shadow somebody who may have been there a couple of years less than you, but they had the education or the ability to lead somebody or to perform in those kind of tense situations sometimes that captains or supervisors need to deal with.”

Noting the EMoPP is not an MOU, Stegman said, “As long as we’ve been on the board, we have not had one. Their previous MOU expired long before we took office and we’ve never signed one. So this is not an MOU. There is no MOU. This is policies and procedures, and I think that the next thing that I know the administrative staff wants to work on are the rules and regulations. So we’re going to get those together, too. That’s our next project. I’m just updating to reflect what’s going on and reflect the new positions and also we need to rewrite job descriptions because obviously some jobs aren’t there, some have changed and some have been added. So that all needs to be updated.”

Though the EMoPP is not an MOU, Stegman said she believes Local 1889 members had plenty of input into the policies and procedures outlined in the manual, noting that give and take transpired during open sessions of the Board of Directors.

“… I’ve always said that’s where any process is going to happen — it’s in open meetings. I didn’t want anything behind closed doors — one person meeting with a group or whatever,” she explained. “I wanted it all to be in an open meeting. So that was the format we went with. If I worked on it with the chief, I would bring suggestions to the board members and the union at the same time in an open meeting.

“We’d always give them time to look at it and send us written suggestions back at another board meeting. We always planned that we would never finalize anything until everybody had time to look at it, at least have some input on it.”

The employee manual will be reviewed on an annual basis, Stegman said.

“To me, the policies and procedures (manual) is a working document that gives direction for the district and some guidelines, and I know that that’s important for all the staff to know what’s expected and to know what behavior is expected or tolerated and what is not. And I think if you don’t have those kinds of things in place … it makes for unhappy people, both administration and staff, because they don’t know. One time it could be one way and one time another way. So I think it gives more of a structure to the department and operations …,” she said.

“I hope the men and women understand that that’s the operating procedures from now on and we will review it because you’re never static so you have to always review those procedures at least yearly … because things do change, circumstances do change. I think we’re just really happy to have a good working document and we’ll go from there.”

More to Discover