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Council reviews draft of human resources audit

A draft of the city’s human resources audit was presented to the City Council at a study session last week before the Council’s regular meeting on Nov. 21. The session was open to the public.

Council member Bruce Bassett formally requested the audit. He then served as a liaison to the audit team.

The audit was authorized by the Council at its Oct. 2 meeting, not long after the settlement of the lawsuit brought by former employee Londi Lindell against the city. Lindell alleged, among other things, that she was discriminated against and harassed on the basis of her sex.

The Council set out to ensure that human resources procedures were in place that would prevent any future issues that might arise from either improper relationships or an atmosphere that any employee or citizen would find offensive or threatening.

The Council directed the audit team to determine that:

1. Written personnel policies include all required provisions.

2. Management of HR activities is consistent with those policies and best practices.

3. Proper checks and balances are in place regarding HR decisions.

The audit team started with reviewing two versions of the Employee Handbook, one in 2003 and 2009.

The audit team, lead by HR consultant Bob Roegner, who is a former mayor of Auburn, went through the existing HR policies and suggested ways that the policies could be made more specific. According to the Council packet, the audit recommendations were summarized as follows:

“The Audit Team is recommending a handful of significant policy changes and a much larger number of less substantial changes that are more technical in nature than about policy,” the report said. “As discussed in detail in the HR Draft Audit report, the more significant include dealing with nepotism, improper governmental action, anti-harrassment, the grievance process and employee discipline.”

Councilmember Mike Cero was unimpressed by the audit, calling it a waste of money.

“I did not think it was worth the money, especially in this tough economy,” he said.

The audit cost the city $9,000.

“The issue is not that our policies are bad or outdated,” he said. “The issue is that policies are not being followed, particularly with nepotism.”

He also felt that some changes, such as requiring four directors to weigh in on whether or not to fire or discipline an employee, were “too cumbersome.”

A cover letter from the consultant included with the report stated the following: “As a general comment, we believe that your personnel policies are on a par with and in many cases will exceed most other jurisdictions’ good business practices after final internal and external legal review. We also believe this level of scrutiny is reflective of your efforts to provide fair and equitable treatment of your employees. They will also provide you confidence regarding internal controls and checks and balances as you move forward.”

Final review of the audit and changes that will result must now pass legal review to be conducted by internal and outside counsel.

For the complete draft, go to www.mercergov.org.

 

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