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Council meets with city department heads to discuss employee manual

The City Council, Mayor, and Department Heads gathered in the Pelican Room at City Hall Wednesday afternoon to discuss potential changes to be made to the Employee Manual, including giving the City Council oversight over major city employee hires, allowing supervisors to send home employees whenever they are causing issues, and keeping the personnel committee intact.

It was also discovered that the handbook that the council has is different from the one that the department heads have, leading to some confusion regarding certain sections where the handbooks differed. 

This issue wasn’t resolved, seeing as the council hadn’t made these changes to the handbook and their copies were the ones they received when coming into office, but it is an issue they’re looking into, to ensure that everybody is on the same page so to speak. 

This workshop comes after being one of Councilman Terika Williams-Walker of Dist. B main focuses, bringing up the Employee Handbook at many of the previous meetings. A few months ago, Councilman Walker provided her proposed changes to the handbook. 

While they were supposed to discuss the employee handbook at one of the previous workshops, at the request of a Department head, they rescheduled the meeting so that department heads could be present for the meeting and provide their input, seeing as they would be the ones having to enforce whatever changes were made. 

Early into the meeting, Gary Moreland, Department Head for the Electricity Department, provided the Councilmen and Mayor with a list of items that he wanted to address about the proposed changes to the handbook and also made some suggestions for additions to it himself. He was speaking on behalf of himself and some of the other Department Heads who had also discussed these changes with him.

“The Public Works had a meeting last week and we discussed, went through it line item by line item, on changes that were proposed, and also, we have some things that haven’t been mentioned in the employee handbook that we think needs to be addressed at this time since we’re doing it,” said Moreland.

One of the issues he addressed regarded one of the changes that would make it so the Council would be the authority that disciplines city employees. The issue is, the Council is also the body that would here their appeal if they were treated unfairly. 

“If you’re disciplined by the council, you’re the only appeal is to the council, is what was proposed in what we saw here, said Moreland, referring to the manual with the proposed changes.

“This method will maintain city personnel issues to be handled in a timely fashion and give the employees an adequate appeal process.”

“We can’t be the jury and the judge,” said Councilman Vincen Bradford of Dist. C in agreement.

While some more discussion took place, it was ultimately decided that they would keep the Personnel Committee, and make it so a City Councilman would be the Chairman of the Committee again. Councilman Walker proposed that Councilman Keith Beard of Dist. D should be the Chairman, to which Beard and the other Councilmen agreed. 

Another proposed change from Moreland would be a new addition that would address an occasional problem that happens in his and others’ departments. 

Essentially, they are asking for an addition that would allow them the ability to send home employees with pay. While it may sound like an odd request at first, after hearing the Department Heads explain how it would help, it makes a lot more sense. 

“If you catch an employee that’s doing something blatantly unsafe, right now the supervisor does not have the authority to do anything to that employee immediately to stop the situation until you go to the Mayor. All we’re saying is give the supervisors the authority to stop what’s going on, with pay, until reviewed by the Mayor,” said Eric Lee, Department head for Water and Sewage. 

This would essentially allow supervisors to immediately stop an employee from working if they’re causing a problem in the workplace, which is an authority they do not currently have. Sending them home with pay would make it so potentially the employee has time to reflect on their mistake, and won’t be bitter about losing a day’s worth of pay. 

One of Councilman Walker’s central changes to the handbook was that defining where the Council has oversight regarding the hiring of new employees, the creation of new positions, promotions, and wage increases. 

Throughout the meeting, they arrived and the understanding regarding the hiring of temporary, they only wanted to have a decision regarding the creation of new positions, not necessarily the hiring of each individual employee.

“Correct me if I’m wrong Terika, if any new part-time positions are created, we just want to know what they are, so that we can have a say on it,” said Beard, to which Walker agreed. 

There was a discrepancy based on the wording of the changes that made it seem like the Council would be involved with every single hire that the city did, but after some clarifying discussion, everyone understood what Walker was suggesting.

“That’s what I was trying to clarify. The hiring of part-time employees and temporary employees can stay the way it is right now, but when there is a new part-time position created, for some reason or another, we would like to know about that,” said Beard.

 There were some other changes to the handbook to be addressed, but it was decided that they would be discussed in a later workshop which is set to take place on Feb.26 starting at 1 p.m.