Polk attorney to address issues in personnel policy

Published 1:13 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

by Leah Justice

The Polk County Board of Commissioners directed the county attorney to address some issues in the county’s current personnel policy and discussed the possible need for a separate personnel director.

Commissioners met Sept. 8 and discussed some issues discovered in the personnel policy.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

County attorney Jana Berg said the policy does need review and there have been a few personnel matters that have arisen and the policy did not address those issues adequately.

She said one issue in the policy is that the person who administers the policy is also the person appeals are addressed.

Commissioner chair Ted Owens said the board has had different occasions since they were elected where the policy was not up to date and had some flaws.

On a personnel manager/human resource officer, Berg said she thinks the county needs a human resource officer. She said former county manager Ryan Whitson knew just how big the job is and how much clerical time it takes. Berg said there are lots of laws and comp time, then emergency service employees have another separate way to pay comp time. She said just keeping up with health insurance and their forms is a job and the county finance office is taking care of that now.

“It would be well served if you had it all in one place,” Berg said.

Berg also listed other duties, such as maintaining employee reviews, employee write-ups and writing job descriptions.

“I was surprised when I first came here you didn’t have someone on that job,” said Beg.

Commissioner Tom Pack said the county manger job currently serves as the county manager, the human resource officer and the project manager. Pack asked if the county needs to hire a project manager, or does it need to hire a personnel manager. He suggested some decisions be made prior to adjusting the personnel policy.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he remembers different conversations with Whitson. Gasperson said Polk is a small county and employees wear a lot of different hats. He said a person dedicated to human resources only might make a lot of sense in a larger county but maybe not in Polk, saying Polk had an individual who was suburb in finance that left the county a while back.

“I’m a little concerned about what we do about that designation right now,” Gasperson said.

Owens said Whitson told him many times it wasn’t right that he had to hand down a decision regarding an employee and that employee had to appeal that decision to Whitson as well. Owens also said he didn’t realize until interim economic development director Robert Williamson drew up a chart how many people Polk County employs. According to the county’s latest payroll, Polk employs 224 people, including part-time employees.

“Any company with that many employees I bet has a personnel manager,” Owens said. “The decision (has not yet been made) to go with a personnel manager but I think eventually the county needs one, but that’s my personal opinion.”

Interim county manager Marche Pittman suggested the new personnel policy match the state’s policies.

Pack said he thinks the policy needs to be looked at but decisions need to be made in order to complete it and agreed with Pittman the policy needs to align with the state policy so the county and the state have the same set of policies.

The board came to a consensus for Berg to identify areas that the board needs to address in the policy, with commissioners discussing possible changes at a later date.