Monday, July 21, 2008

Civil Service Hearing

Mayor's office: $1.8 million + costs of testing and renting testing facility (um... don't we have a room right next door we can use for testing?). Three months to fill positions instead of six weeks.

Sounds like lots of skewed data, given that the costs vastly exceed what the City pays. The teachers and law enforcement officers already have their own program, so the cost should be more like $500K.

FYI, to dispel some misconceptions:

"You can't fire someone once they get under civil service."
Civil service is not like tenure. CS only means that an employee must receive written warnings before termination and is allowed to appeal the decision. What this does is forces the supervisors in the county to document a bad employee. The benefit of such a structure is that it saves money by reducing lawsuit expenses. The City has not lost a single HR lawsuit since instituting their program. Saving ourselves losing two or three lawsuits would pay for the program.

Other benefits:
- Reduces nepotism and hiring of political associates unqualified to hold the position (through job requirements and associated testing).

In short, a well-crafted program is a good idea. It should include some excluded positions (mayor's office, probably most of the fee offices since they are elected), a grievance board, one year probationary period, and other items to make a program that will save us money and protect our career employees from political influence.

Pinkston is opposed, citing budget concerns. He said he believes it's impossible to fire a county employee right now, but he should read page 12 of the Knox County employee handbook and read the "Employment At Will" section. Unless a federal or state law is violated (e.g., discriminatory practices), there is no recourse for political firings. The only prohibition by the handbook is that supervisors cannot require (but may allow!) political campaigning by employees, and cannot coerce or compel (but may still solicit!) political contributions.

C'mon. If you're an at-will employee, and your boss asks you to put up some signs and/or contribute (and he/she just gave you a big raise), what are you going to do? If you see another employee contribute $1000 and they got a $5000/year permanent raise (taxpayer $$!), what are people going to do? Get real.

William Daniels just brought up this donation-raise issue. Larry Smith said, "if they don't like it, they can get another job." I guess we know where Larry's vote is going to fall on this issue.

Lynne Liddington (Air Quality)- arguing that we have a good set of policies, suggests perhaps enhancing the policies we have already.

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