Friday, May 08, 2015
Jerry Seyfried Gives a Clinic on Good Government
He should have stayed away. Earlier that day, Jerry received word that his son was in the hospital. But he remained, and gave nothing less than a clinic in good government, explaining why the merit personnel system exists and how it is being perverted. .
The issue of pay raises for exempt and non-exempt employees goes back many years. Your solicitor has adequately addressed that issue in his legal opinion to you, and although my opinion might not mean much to you, I agree 100% with his findings.
At present there seems to be a hang-up about pay raises and the Policies and Procedures Manual. I will give you a little history on this subject, but first I will quote The Home Rule Charter Commission on their establishment of a “Merit Personnel System” and what they hoped to accomplish.
Through the Charter and its mandates, The Administrative Code and its mandates, and the Career Service Regulations, they hoped to and I quote “have a personnel code established for county employees which would base all appointments on merit. The system would assure uniform hiring and firing procedures and would also guarantee the retention of experienced county workers.” “The merit personnel system established in the Charter provides for recruiting and employing county government employees on the basis of qualification." There are provisions for:
1.) The qualification of positions
2.) A pay plan
3.) Policies and procedures regarding impartial standards for employment
4.) Removal of employees
5.) Hours of work
6.) In service training programs; and
7.) Handling employee’s grievances.
There are safeguards against all forms of discrimination and political patronage.
What has happened is too often the Career Service Regulations, the Charter and the Administrative Code is ignored in this area. When not ignored they are outright perverted. For example, a test was administered for the Register of Wills position asking questions that had absolutely nothing to do with that job. Another example, a test for a deputy in the Civil Division was given requiring knowledge of EXCEL, a program never used by the people in that office. On the other hand, the merit personnel system worked the way it intended when a young lady came to Gracedale and started working as a Nurse's Aid. She progressed up the ladder using the tools provided to her in the Career Service Regulations and went on to become the Director of Nursing at the County Facility. The Asst. DON also progressed through the ranks after starting as a Nurses Aid. This is a shining example of how a good merit personnel system should function.
Now for the problem you are presently having with existing rules here is some background information.
In 2008 The Administration and Council were at lager heads over employee issues. The Council felt the Administration (through the personnel office) were altering the Career Service Regulations by improperly making overwhelming changes to the Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual, and then enforcing those regulations thus usurping the powers and authority of the Council.
***Council passed an ordinance #488 on October 2, 2008, which stated their displeasure with the process, and laid out a whole new set of rules for the administration to follow before implementing the policies and procedures.
***The Administration disagreed with the Ordinance and took the issue to court.
***On 4 November 2008 the Courts handed down this Ruling. “The Plaintiff shall take no action contrary to ordinance 488-2008. The defendant shall take no action under Ordinance 488-2008 pending further order of court”.
***In the middle of 2009, I was appointed to serve out an unexpired term of a councilperson which had moved from the area. Because of my background on Personnel issues I was asked to take a look at the Personnel Rules and report back to Council on my findings. After considerable time I reported my findings. I found what I believed to be at least thirty violations of the Home Rule Charter, Administrative code, and /or the Career Service Regulations, and depending on who is interpreting the Policies and procedures, those numbers could have been even higher.
I spoke with the Administration’s Solicitor and pointed out these deficiencies.
He agreed we should meet and discuss these issues.
***In Executive session of Council, I reported my findings and the fact that the Administrations Solicitor was willing to meet and discuss what I viewed as discrepancies. Council instructed me to proceed, and I immediately set up a meeting with the County Executive, County Solicitor, Council Solicitor and myself.
*** At that meeting I identified the Policies and Rules that members of Council and I felt were violations. We then agreed that the lawsuit would be dropped and a written formal agreement between the Administration and Council be given to the Judge to resolve this issue.
***Executive session of Council was held and it was unanimous to proceed with the settlement.
***On 26 October, 2009 The Court gave their “Declaratory Judgment Action.” The first paragraph of the settlement is very important. It reads “Plaintiff agrees to submit the existing Personnel Policies and Procedure Manual to the Northampton County Personnel Commission for its review and recommendation pursuant to the provisions of Ordinance 488-2008, as more fully set forth in Exhibit A”.
TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE….THIS HAS NEVER BEEN DONE AND THERE-IN LAYS A MAJOR PART OF YOUR PROBLEM.
***The Personnel Commission met and agreed to look at the Career Service Regulations and took it even a step further. They combined Home Rule Charter Mandates, Administrative Code Mandates, and existing State and Federal Law Mandates and “Rewrote the Career Service Regulations” bringing them into the twenty first Century.
My term on Council ended in 2009, however I agreed to be Council’s Representative (as a volunteer) to the Personnel Commission and I served with the commission and representatives of the administration until the Regulations were completed. The rewriting of the Regulations took approximately one and a half years to complete.
***On February 17th 2011 The Personnel Commission presented to Council the newly written Career Service Regulations and they were adopted by County Council.
I had explained to the Commission about the law suits, the court settlement and the mandates. They understood fully. It must be noted that “no where” does it state that the Personnel Commission is to review Personal Policies and Procedures, however, because of the law suit and the court agreement, they said they would take on the task and review the policies.
Remember, the policies and procedures manual is not adopted by County Council and are rules written by the administration putting forth the everyday operation of the government. In the past they have over stepped their bounds and that resulted in a law suit. These personnel policies and procedures can be very damaging to the County if they are violations and simply ignored. Let me give you an example.
DA raises for his employee. In this case the Judge cited the Personnel policies and procedure manual which was contradictory to the Charter.
I’ll explain further if you want me too.
You must clear up these Personnel Policies and Procedures and put credibility back in the Merit Personnel System.
County Council controls salaries. County Council controls the number of positions in both the career Service and the exempt service. County council has the authority by Charter mandate to dictate certain policies and procedures to the administration and the merit personnel system is only one of those.
I’d be glad to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for allowing me this input.
How did Council respond to this primer? I'll tell you below.