This afternoon, the committee, made up of city employees, residents and outgoing Councilman Bruce Jenkins, is expected to revise the city’s employee manual.
The guide governs how the city’s 193 full-time employees handle issues including traveling, benefits, disciplinary hearings and days off. It hasn’t been updated since 2006, Jenkins said, and was inconsistent and confusing.
After an election filled with questions and concerns as to how the city’s elected officials were conducting themselves, many residents called for a change in their behavior. This led to the three incumbents being ousted from office: Jeff Duckett, Jenkins and Matt Riedemann.
Council members currently look to the employee handbook for guidance, which isn’t “crystal clear” in the details for many things, including the travel expense policy for spouses, Jenkins said.
The city’s elected officials had been getting reimbursed for travel expenses to conferences and meetings for their spouses, which Jenkins said is about to change.
A clarification has been made in the employee handbook which excludes spouses from travel reimbursements, so there will no longer be any room for confusion.
“Clarification is a great thing. The more transparency we have in government, the better,” Jenkins said.
Other changes include making references to council members and the mayor consistent throughout the manual. Jenkins said the old manual didn’t always include both the mayor and the council in the guidelines, sometimes only one or the other were named. The manual is now consistent throughout, Jenkins promised.
New council to write manual
Once Debra Williams, Jim Sebastian and Leonard Church, the three new councilmembers elected in November, are sworn into office Monday night, they hope to draft a council-and-mayor-specific manual to govern their conduct.
Williams and Sebastian are expected to take up the charge.
“It has to be done,” Williams said.
The changes to the employee manual will need to be voted on and approved by the City Council before they can adopt their own guidebook, which Mayor Mark Mathews expects to happen in February.
“I would absolutely be hopeful that within the first quarter of this year we will be able to pass a council handbook,” Councilwoman Cris Welsh said.
She is looking forward to having a comprehensive guide for her and future council members to turn to for issues regarding credit card expenses, travel policies and text messaging guidelines.
While the details
of the new council manual have yet to be hashed out, Welsh and Jenkins said they expect it to cover at least a travel expense policy.
Council members should have no questions regarding their conduct, Welsh said, and it is important a clear manual is created.
“Right now the employee manual is what the council uses — there is too much room for interpretation. It’s time for the interpretation to stop,” she said.
Mathews said he is confident the changes to the employee handbook will be beneficial to the city, well thought out and practical.
Williams and Sebastian, along with the other members of the council, will use the revised employee handbook to start writing their own for the council members just as soon as the employee handbook gets approved and voted on by the council, Williams said.