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Spectrum report focus of specially called meeting

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Sunnyside City Councilman Don Vlieger questions city attorney Tony Menke at last night's special council meeting.

The Sunnyside City Council had detailed for them at last night's meeting a report done by The Spectrum Group, LLC detailing the job descriptions of city employees and addressing some salary issues.

The report was requested by the city's legal firm of Menke, Jackson, Beyer, Ehlis and Harper. The project included a full review and re-write of the job descriptions for certain represented and non-represented positions in the city.

A total of 23 employees were interviewed to ascertain these descriptions.

Sunnyside interim City Manager Jim Bridges told the council some of the job descriptions hadn't been updated since the 1970s or 1980s. Although some salary discrepancies were noted in the report, Bridges said a salary study was not part of the report.

City Attorney Tony Menke told the council the report was clearly necessary because of the lack of job descriptions. He called it critical to have these descriptions to spell out the functions of an employee's job.

"It gives us a road map to move forward," he said.

He added that the report gives the city a tool to develop more consistency in the organization at city hall.

The report calls for some of the duties done by staff to be condensed. For example, the report questions the need for a human resources director, stating that the size of the city doesn't warrant a full-time position to oversee human resources.

Menke said this duty could be added to another position.

Councilman Tom Gehlen questioned this.

Menke said he sees that position as more as a periodic positional responsibility and that the position would probably only need to address human resource issues two to three times a week.

Councilman Don Vlieger took exception to some of the items in the report.

He questioned why the city council was even looking at job descriptions, calling it something the city manager should be doing.

Councilman Paul Garcia interjected and told Vlieger the council had asked for this report.

The reason for council asking for the report came about last year when they noticed an increase in some city employee salaries. Garcia said the council wanted to base pay raises on job performance but were told they couldn't do that because there were no job descriptions.

Menke told Vlieger he made a good point and that it wasn't the council's job to look at job descriptions and agreed it was the city manager's responsibility. However, Menke said the report was being discussed in the interest of transparency.

The Spectrum report paints a picture of city hall as a fractured organization and Vlieger asked why the council shouldn't be looking into the cause of the fracture. He claimed Menke knew of two reports that spell out these reasons but so far the council has not been able to view them.

Vlieger also questioned the report recommending a pay raise for the city clerk, stating that this position earns between four and eight percent more than the city police officers do. He saw that as a problem.

The council also heard from Bridges on personnel policies that were recently drafted. Council just received the document and hadn't had time to look at it. Council decided to discuss the new policies at a later date.

Menke did say that the personnel policies would not affect contracted positions. He called the policies an evolutionary document that will be a vehicle for the council and the mayor to have the opportunity to expect accountability. He also stated that having a personnel policy in place will be instrumental in helping to improve morale.

The document will need to be studied by the council and some decisions will need to be made. For example, Menke pointed out the city's drug policy.

"Are you going to be a no-tolerance city," he asked.

Currently some of the testing criteria establish a tolerance level. A no-tolerance city would not allow any measurable level of alcohol or controlled substances. If a measurable amount was found it would generate severe disciplinary action.

It's questions like these the council will need to answer at a future date.

The council also received a handbook on recruiting guidelines at last night's meeting. The handbook is the same the city council used in its search for a city manager more than a year ago.

Council will review the handbook and hold a workshop at a future date to discuss the best way to go forward with the city's search for a permanent city manager.

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