City considers new policies for employees

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 13, 2004

Potential policy changes regarding leave time highlighted aspecial board of aldermen work session on a new employee handbookWednesday night.

Aldermen reviewed a draft of the new handbook with consultantGary Friedman during the special called meeting.

Following up on an earlier discussion, board members expressed adesire to allow employees to apply unused sick leave or vacationtime toward retirement. Friedman said the city currently has a “useit or lose it” system.

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“We’re trying to do away with that system,” saidAlderman-at-large Les Bumgarner.

Aldermen and Friedman talked about various ways the retirementperk could be enacted and what would be in accordance with PERS(Public Employee Retirement System) guidelines. City policy allowsfrom one week of vacation after one year of work to four weeksafter 15 years.

“We want them to be able to carry it forward for retirement butnot to be used three years later,” Bumgarner said aboutaccumulating unused vacation time.

Ward Six Alderman Buddy Allen indicated the potential forproblems if an employee was allowed to accrue up to and use oneyear of vacation time.

“We’d be sitting here short a man for the whole year,” Allensaid. “I don’t know if we could do that or not.”

City officials also spent some time discussing the policyregarding sick leave. Currently, city employees are not given sickleave, but they are allowed to use up to five paid days if they areill.

Jimmy Furlow, traffic supervisor and mayoral assistant, cited apotential for abuse if employees have a designated allotment ofsick days. He applauded the idea of applying unused sick time toretirement, saying it would not cost any money and could save moneyfor the city.

“It’s an incentive for you not to use those sick days,” Furlowsaid.

Regarding sick leave abuse, Friedman said preventing that is amatter of supervision. Furlow, however, questioned how sick leaveuse could be accurately monitored.

“If a guy calls in sick, as far as I’m concerned, he’s sick,”Furlow said.

Friedman suggested city policy could be revamped to designateonly personal leave, regardless of whether it is for vacation orillness. Aldermen, though, did not indicate any desire to go inthat direction.

Also in the area of personnel, Friedman’s duties include areview of fire and police department work schedules to ensure theyare in compliance with wage and hour and constitutionalstandards.

Friedman was going to look at the fire department’s 24 hours onduty, 48 hours off duty scheduling, and its practice of giving”kelly days,” which are periodic days off so that firefighters donot work over a designated number of hours in a certain timeperiod. The consultant suggested a separate personnel policy forthe fire and police departments.

In other handbook activity, aldermen approved a sentenceacknowledging an employee’s family’s access to health insurancecoverage and a change entitling an employee up to 24 hours of paidfuneral leave for immediate family. Originally, the draft calledfor eight hours of paid funeral leave with the employee having touse other leave time for the remaining 16 hours.

Aldermen modified a draft statement to require that any cityemployee who drives or operates equipment must have a driver’slicense. Also, while cellular telephones are provided to departmentheads and foremen, aldermen moved to prohibit personal cell phoneuse by city employees while on duty.

Friedman was expected to work on the handbook policies andreport back to the board.

After the changes are finalized, he recommended the board post apolicy draft on employee bulletin boards in order to give them achance to comment on it. Employees could comment on the policy, andit could be approved at a future board meeting, he said.

No official action was able to be taken Wednesday since MayorPro Tem Terry Bates was out of town and Aldermen Dorsey Cameron andMrs. Jerry L. Wilson were unable to attend. Allen presided andcould not be counted toward a quorum.