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Bleak picture painted of Sunnyside City Hall

City of Sunnyside officials have had painted for them a picture of a severely fractured organization.

That's according to a study that was recently completed. The project entailed a full review and re-write of the job descriptions and class specifications for certain represented and non-represented positions in the city of Sunnyside.

"There are issues in each division and functional area which have been allowed to go on for a very long time and the residual effect is dysfunction and distrust of the council, department heads and co-workers across division lines," said Dema Harris, a member of the Spectrum Group, LLC, who conducted the project.

"The organization is severely fractured."

Harris said a major reason for this dysfunction is due to the conflict and turmoil created by the turnover of the city manager position three times in the last seven years. She also blamed past city managers and the city attorney for failing to address these personnel issues on a timely basis.

Tony Menke, senior partner at Menke, Jackson, Beyer, Ehlis and Harper Law Firm, which represents the city of Sunnyside, said the report was commissioned to determine if the jobs being performed at city hall conformed to the job descriptions in existence. Menke said it had been 20 years in some cases since a review was done.

He said the report will help the city in assessing the need for restructuring, which would make the organization more efficient and productive.

Harris pointed out in her report that many of the changes needed at city hall will not be easy to accomplish. She recommends as the first step for the city council to make a final decision on the future leadership of the city.

"The city manager should proceed with caution on employee related matters and reorganization," she said. "It is apparent that the former city managers instituted promotions and compensation increases with little regard to the market or internal equity, but rather a system of favoritism and cronyism.

"The current city manager (Jim Bridges) appears to be the first in seven years to move forward to correct the deficiencies which have been allowed to develop," she added. "There is no easy way to move forward to correct these issues when it is not possible to terminate everyone and start with a clean slate."

Fairness of pay seemed to be an issue. Harris noted that some positions are overpaid for the amount of work being performed and some are underpaid.

She pointed out the position of human resources manager. Harris said the city is large enough to warrant this position but added that the current work being done by the position doesn't justify its pay. Currently the salary for this position is $62,378 per year and Harris said consideration should be given to an appropriate salary reduction for this position.

Harris also pointed out a large difference in the salaries of the accounting assistant II position and the accounting assistant position, noting there is a 46 percent difference in the two positions' salaries.

Because this position is covered in the collective bargaining agreement, a change in compensation would require negotiation.

Two police receptionist positions were reviewed, as well. Harris said in her report there is a backlog of requested reports which staff isn't able to address or get caught up on because of overtime restrictions.

Harris also noted that one of the receptionists is responsible for processing evidence and maintenance of the evidence room. Although the employee is able to retrieve the evidence when required, Harris said a more efficient and organized process for this function is needed.

Increasing this position's pay will not solve the backlog, Harris said in her report. Instead, Harris recommends the police chief evaluate the staffing level and consider changing the reporting chain of command with oversight and daily supervision provided by the police administrative assistant who provides back-up support for these positions.

Harris said the city clerk position should be a management level position in the organization at city hall and that the position should receive more compensation for the work done. Currently the city clerk position draws a salary of $62,502 a year.

Harris also recommended that the city relieve some of the workload and additional hours for this position and consider establishing a deputy clerk position. As an alternative, Harris said some of the city clerk's responsibilities could be assigned to public works or the development services administrative assistant.

"The back-biting and lack of a team effort at city hall is unacceptable and serves no useful purpose in providing the services the community demands and deserves," Harris said in her summary.

She recommended the city adopt personnel policies and clear job descriptions as a first step.

Menke said his office is currently working on personnel policies.

"Establishing them would give everybody a written explanation of what their job expectations are," he said.

Harris also recommended a formal employee evaluation system as a good step.

A special open public meeting will be called to discuss this report by city council. The meeting is expected to be scheduled on Monday, Jan. 14, or Tuesday, Jan. 15.

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