|Cathy Allen's 19% Payjike Needed Council Approval|
The danger in discussing this topic is that, for most readers, the eyes begin to glaze over after the third or fourth provision of the Home Rule Charter is mentioned, to say nothing of the Career Service Regulations and Employee Policies Manual. So let me diverge from Phil Lauer's opinion to explain why these provisions matter.
There are approximately 2,200 County employees. The whole point of what must seem like arcane provisions to many of you, is to promote a system in which all employees are treated fairly. Advancement should be based on what one knows, not cronyism. Though 75% of the workforce is now scattered into 11 different bargaining units, the principles in career service regulations still apply for someone who wants to move from one department to another, or who needs to test for a job.
One of the most important of these rules gives Council a say if an Executive wants to reward a favorite employee.
The County's Career Service Regulations require Council's assent to any pay reclassification that bumps anyone up more than one "step" in the pay scale. That prevents a boss from playing favorites with cronies. It prevents a rewarded employee from promoting a bad policy simply because it is part of the Executive's agenda. It minimizes the resentment that inevitably arises when one person is rewarded and others are not. It assures the public that the people who are working in different positions are there because they deserve to be there.
Brown moved Deputy Director Cathy Allen up three steps in her pay grade, in violation of these rules. He them gave her a "temporary" raise on top of that because she had assumed some of the duties of retired HR Director Pat Siemiontkowski. He awarded similar "temporary" payhikes to two other top officials in the HR department, who had also assumed some of Pat's duties. But when Tracie Barnes was brought on board as Pat's successor, he continued paying this "temporary" increase. That's another violation of Career Service Regulations.
Why did Brown ignore Council, especially when the top officials in HR should know the rules? This could simply be a combination of inexperience and naivete. But the danger here is that Brown is singling out certain people for special treatment, at the expense of other workers and the public. Mind you, these are HR officials, the people who make decisions concerning everyone else. How can they possibly apply the rules to others fairly when they are winking at their own violations?
It appears that has already happened. According to a report from Controller Steve Barron to Council that was just issued yesterday, 54 workers have received "out of class" pay hikes since the beginning of 2014. At this point, it is unclear to Barron just how many of these increases were approved by Council. That obviously needs to be investigated.
Interestingly, one of these HR officials was involved in the fiasco earlier this year when county workers found they had no prescription coverage. Employees being tested for different positions are being asked questions about items that have nothing to do with the job, ensuring their failure and the promotion of someone else.
So though the temptation is to yawn when hearing about CSR Section 4.01 or Home Rule Charter Section 202(11), what is at stake is a competent government instead of one that is infested by cronies. Eventually, that leads to public corruption and it destroys what little is left of employee morale.
Updated 9:40 am: A reader asked for a copy of Barron's memo. It can be seen here.