Marble Hill officials ironing out ordinance on who manages city personnel

Thursday, July 12, 2012

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- An ordinance to transfer authority over city personnel to the Marble Hill board of aldermen did not get a chance to be read at the board's meeting Monday night. It will take a special meeting in the near future to iron out some differences between the board and Mayor Michael Sowers before all concerned can agree on who can hire, fire and manage city personnel.

What Sowers presented to the board as an ordinance for its approval would have taken all administrative control from administrative assistant Tammy Whitney and given it to the board.

In the past few months, several board members have disagreed with decisions Whitney has made about city personnel. Aldermen have said they want more say in her decisions to hire, fire and especially to give raises.

Sowers said that Whitney has been doing her job, and that if the aldermen want more control over personnel matters, then the ordinance he had city attorney Alan Beus­sink prepare would give it to them. But, he said, he disagreed with the ordinance and would refuse to sign it, and the ordinance would sit for 30 days and then go on the city records by default.

"You will do the hiring and firing, you will check references, and you will keep personnel records of each employee," Sowers said. "If they need a reprimand, you will have to do that."

He reminded the board that, especially in the case of hiring lifeguards at the pool, aldermen have been given every opportunity to interview applicants and that none did. Aldermen have questioned Whitney's personnel decisions and asked that she seek the board's approval before making decisions.

Sowers said Whitney, police chief Scott Shaffer and maintenance supervisor West Craft were hired to manage their departments, and if the board is not satisfied with the job they are doing, then the board should replace them. It's the way business in the private sector works, he said.

Craft said he disagreed with giving the board that much authority over the people he works with.

"I and other supervisors work closely with our people," Craft said, adding that when he did ask the board to participate in some personnel decisions, "nobody showed up."

"We want to review who gets hired and fired," Alderman James Sear said. "We're not taking away your authority."

Shortly after Whitney was hired as administrative assistant, she began working on managing the city hall operations, cutting hours and benefits of some appointed officials, and eliminating such unneeded expenses as unused telephone lines and computer hookups. She said she saved enough in the city's payroll account that she was able to give raises to some city employees and remain under budget. City salaries have not increased in the past three years, she said.

"We had one guy who was here 11 years making $9.92 an hour," Whitney said. "We're still under budget, and we're still cutting costs. Nobody cared about hiring and firing until I gave the raises."

Like Craft, Whitney also said she doesn't like the proposed ordinance. She said she has tried to seek input from aldermen but "you can't get together" to come to a consensus.

Some decisions have to be made immediately, Craft said, and he and other supervisors don't have the luxury of calling aldermen to make a decision he says he is capable of making.

Alderman Tim McCain said that the ordinance as presented "isn't what we wanted at all." He made the motion to table its discussion and approval until the board can get together and work out a clear ordinance everyone can agree with. That will take place at a special-called meeting sometime in the future which, the board agreed, will be open to the public.

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