The Gardner City Council adopted changes to the city’s personnel policies and procedures, 2018 edition. The council adopted the revisions during a council meeting Nov. 5.
The city amended section 4-108 of the manual by removing subsection 108.4 in its entirety. The subsection deals with the process through which an employee can appeal a negative performance review.
The council amended section 7-108 to remove the following language from the manual:
“In cases in which the employee directly reports to the city administrator, the employee can request a review of the disciplinary action directly to the governing body. In these cases, the governing body will assume responsibilities of the city administrator outlined in this section and the decision of the governing body shall be final.”
The motion was made by Rich Melton, council member, and seconded by Randy Gregoryck, councilmember. The changes take effect immediately.
At the Oct. 22, 2018, council meeting, Gregorcyk asked if the governing body would be interested in rescinding Resolution 1963. Steve Shute, mayor, and Melton each stated they believed the resolution should be removed. Ryan Denk, city attorney, stated the potential to create exposure for the governing body with involvement in personnel decision had been discussed when the resolution was initially adopted. He said removing the appeal of performance reviews to the governing body added a layer of defense against showing the governing body took final and formal action. He continued MPR (insurance) believes the council should focus on policy and leave personnel matters to the administrative level, and would probably like to see the resolution repealed.
Mark Baldwin, councilmember, stated the resolution should be repealed and Shute asked for this item to be included on the next agenda. The language removed is as follows:
Section 7- 105 is amended to remove the following language:
“In cases in which the employee directly reports to the City Administrator, the employee can request a review of the disciplinary action directly of the Governing Body. In these cases, the Governing Body will assume the responsibilities of the City Administrator outlined in this section, and the decision of the Governing Body will be final.”
At the March 6, 2017, meeting, council adopted Resolution No. 1963 with a 4-1 vote, amending policy and adding a process for employee appeal of performance reviews.
Before resolution 1963, director level staff got their reviews from the city administrator. There was no appeal process for employees who disagreed with the evaluation. With last year’s policy change, the administrator still reviewed performance, but directors could appeal the performance review to council.
Shute, then council president, had introduced resolution 1963 after a closed session March 6, 2017. During discussion, Shute had said this was a reaction to an actual case, but he did not identify an individual. Shute said he had written Resolution 1963 by himself. On March 20, 2017, the first appeal hearing was conducted by council, in a series of seven consecutive executive sessions, from 10:54 p.m. to 2:25 a.m. A review by (then) City Administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee, was overturned by the council and Jim Pruetting, Gardner police chief, had his review upgraded with respective to a pay increase. After such an appeal, under Resolution 1963, an employee’s records are subject to KORA.