Work session set next week on proposed Crestwood civil-service rules

Alderman’s queries regarding pay plan ‘absolutely asinine,’ mayor contends

By BURKE WASSON

As Crestwood staff members continue to assemble minutes of Civil Service Board meetings, residents should have a chance next week to hear the newly proposed rules for civil-service employees.

Mayor Roy Robinson said an aldermanic work session to discuss those proposed changes is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the Crestwood Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive. The Civil Service Board has proposed the new civil-service rules and regulations to conform with recent federal and state laws and current city policies. Board members Martha Duchild, Gretchen Huston and Catherine Barnes note that no such document has been approved in more than 10 years when they say that civil-service employees need new rules and regulations.

At press time, the city still was working to catch up on minutes of the Civil Service Board’s past few meetings. While a digital recording of the Civil Service Board’s most recent public hearing on Dec. 28 is available to hear at the Government Center, there are no official meeting minutes of the board in recent months.

Because of the lack of these minutes to the public and further questions on the newly proposed rules, aldermen expressed at a Jan. 9 meeting that work sessions should be scheduled before any changes come to the Board of Aldermen for a vote.

“We’re taking a look at a document where the process is not finalized at this point,” Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland said Jan. 9. “I’m a little bit apprehensive, if these minutes haven’t been made public and accessible to the citizens and the press, that we’re pressing on with this. I would be inclined to take a more cautious approach.

“I would be in favor of a work session where we could go through this, if not page by page, at least section by section and talk about some of the changes. I think some of the changes are definitely long overdue and necessary. However, I think some of the changes I do have some issues with and I would air those concerns in a session like that.”

Robinson said last week that he was informed before the Board of Aldermen’s Jan. 9 meeting that the city “had problems with minutes, but I didn’t know (those) minutes pertained to the Civil Service Board.”

“We became aware after the fact that some things weren’t being accomplished as they should have been,” Robinson said. “Sometimes people let you down in these cases where they appear to be doing their work. And I just want to make sure that everybody knows that our policy here — as long as I sit here — is to be open and to follow the rules of the statutes to make sure that the public is well informed of anything that we’re doing.”

Besides lack of meeting minutes, some aldermen also questioned public notification of the Dec. 28 public hearing, which did not have any citizen attendance.

While Assistant City Administrator Justina Tate said notice of the public hearing was posted on the bulletin board at the Crestwood Government Center, notice was not posted on the city’s Web site or published in the city’s newsletter. As of press time, the city’s Web site was also still lacking any and all agendas and minutes of previous Civil Service Board meetings. Tate and city staff members have said they are now working to add agendas and minutes to a Civil Service Board section on the Web site.

As for the actual proposed changes for civil-service employees, they include updates to federal and state laws passed in the last 10 years and changes that reflect new city policies.

The proposed changes 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 newly proposed civil-service regulations also contain 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 designates the mayor and city administrator as city spokespeople, a regulation that lets family members of elected officials 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.”

Robinson said the ban on dating was placed in the proposals at his request because of past problems the city has experienced with relationships between employees.

“The reason that’s in there is because I asked it to be put in there,” Robinson said. “There’s also going to be a code of conduct or ethics for all the rest of the employees because it’s unbelievable what was going on in that city and nothing was being done about it. I mean, it stunk to high heaven. And you cannot have people working and dating and living with or all that stuff and then work with the person because what happens is they take on a new role.

“Whatever that supervisor is, that’s what they become. And it affects the working environment. It actually violates federal law if in fact people are aware of it and it violates their working environment and their chance to work in a place where they don’t feel that they’ve been violated in any way … I don’t delve in people’s private lives. But when they’re at work, they’ve got to live up to a standard that’s acceptable for everybody.”

At the board’s Jan. 9 meeting, Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder asked why the proposed civil-service rules do not include the city’s pay plan. City Administrator Frank Myers answered that because the city cannot afford the previously adopted pay plan based on merit pay, it would not be included in the civil-service code.

Robinson said even if the city could afford the pay plan, it would not be legally required to put it in the civil-service rules.

While he said a short statement explaining why the city has no pay plan would likely be written in the civil-service code, Robinson last week characterized Nieder’s queries concerning the pay plan as “absolutely asinine.”

“Where do they get off that there has to be a pay plan in the civil-service rules?” Robinson said. “There’s nothing that requires that unless somebody wants to put it in there. And we can’t afford the one we have now. So I don’t want to put something in there and mislead the employees thinking that that thing is still in effect, which it isn’t because there’s no way we can live up to it … If we put that in an ordinance that we’re going to put a pay plan in there, we’d be obligated to do it. And there’s no way we can do that. It’s just asinine. And sometimes I get irritated at some of these guys because they know better, but for some reason, they like to grand stand. And you know, the thing about it is there’s no reason to be talking about that. Somebody else had to put him (Nieder) up to that. He has no idea about pay plans.”

As for the proposal that names the mayor and city administrator as city spokespeople, the provision does not prevent city employees from talking with the media, but discourages them from speaking on behalf of the city. Robinson said this is done for the protection of the city.

“The economic-development (manager) shouldn’t be providing you with information when they may not know that we’ve been provided information about a particular business who is perhaps coming,” Robinson said. “They shouldn’t be giving stuff that’s privileged. What I’m saying is we don’t make the privilege. It’s the people who give us the information say: ‘We don’t want this out.’ They (city employees) may have the information and if they go ahead and put it out and it’s in the media … it’s not them that looks bad, it’s not the paper that looks bad, it’s us.”

The mayor also reiterated last week that city staff members are working to update Civil Service Board minutes and acknowledged that mistakes were made.

“These are the kind of things that upset you,” Robinson said. “The city pays good money to people to make sure that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen. It’s unfortunate it does. Sometimes I say maybe I shouldn’t be so inquisitive and I shouldn’t be as intrusive. I like to let people do their jobs and not have me hanging around. But the thing about it is this just tells me that I need to be aware of just about everything that is going on in the city if I expect these things not to happen … If I know about it and I’ve got a chance to do it, I can get it done. But I can’t do it when I’m blindsided. And if the person was still here that was doing that, they would be not very happy campers today, I assure you.”