Morenci city council 2013.06.12

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci city council members worked through a variety of personnel issues during the June 10 meeting, including a resignation and a change in policy.

Council voted to accept the resignation of DPW worker Barry Stover who accepted a position at a local industry. His final day on the job is Friday.

This should clear the way for Eric Emmons to remain with the DPW, said city supervisor Barney Vanderpool. Emmons was to be laid off June 30 due to a reduction in the city revenue for the next fiscal year.

Council heard the first reading of a proposed change to the employee handbook. Mayor Keith Pennington would like council to vote on the issue at the June 24 meeting.

The recommendation is for the city to change from a “just cause” employer to an “at will” employer. This would remove the progressive discipline steps for nonunion workers and instead allow the city to fire an employee at will.

Morenci is one of the only communities in the region that still uses just cause, said city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder.

“As a salaried employee,” said library director Colleen Leddy, “it feels like an unfriendly relationship.”

Pennington asked why salaried employees should be given an extra layer of protection that other employees don’t have.

“I don’t see a benefit to the city,” Pennington added. “I think it’s more of a benefit to the city to be an at-will employer.”

The city’s attorney and liability insurer both advise moving in that direction, Schroeder said.

The contracts that department heads sign are in conflict with the employee handbook, Pennington said, and he would like them to mesh. He wondered if contracts are even needed.

Councilor Tracy Schell said that some sort of contract or agreement is good to have for department heads, although she doesn’t think it needs to be renewed annually.

An agreement for each position would allow the city to better negotiate with a prospective employee, she said. For example, someone might be willing to work for less pay along with more vacation time. She stated that an initial agreement when an employee is first hired is important to have.

Pennington favored separate job descriptions without the use of contracts.

Council member Brenda Spiess sees no value in contracts. Any minor changes  should be handled by human resources department, she said, which is the city administrator.

A motion to continue using an agreement in addition to the employee handbook failed on a 3-4 vote. A second motion stated that all non-union employees will be governed by the employee handbook, with any negotiated exceptions tracked in a personnel file by the administrator. That passed by a 5-2 vote, with Schell and Robert Jennings voting against the motion.

ADMINISTRATOR—Councilor Jeff Bell announced that three additional interviews are scheduled for the city administrator/clerk position.

FIRE DEPARTMENT—Cody Thompson was approved to re-join the fire department.

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