Monday, October 26, 2015

Oconee County Commissioners To Consider Human Resources Policy That Would Strengthen The Power Of The Chairman

Document Not Released

The public and the Oconee County Board of Commissioners will get an overview tomorrow night of a revised Human Resources policy document that solidifies the power of the chairman of the Board of Commissioners in terms of job classification, pay, dismissals and other personnel matters.

Contrary to the Organizational Policy adopted by the Board of Commissioners in August of 2009, the document makes the chair of the Board of Commissioners and the county administrative officer equals in key personnel matters.

At present, the Organizational Policy includes an organizational chart in which the administrative officer reports to the five members of the Board of Commissioners equally, and department heads report to the administrative officer.

The agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting is relatively light and does not include one item that county Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry suggested should be reviewed by the Board.

Gentry sent BOC Chairman Melvin Davis an email message on Wednesday morning of last week reporting on the unanimous recommendation of the Citizen Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs the evening before that the BOC “conduct substantive negotiations” with two property owners regarding greenspace along the Oconee River.

Davis, who largely controls the agenda for BOC meetings, did not include the item on the agenda released on Friday of last week.

Document Not Released

The commissioners have been discussing revisions of the Human Resources policy much of the year, but tomorrow night will be the first time the public will get details of the outcome of those discussions.

Although the Board of Commissioners adopted a policy a number of years ago of releasing to the public documents given to the commissioners before Commission meetings, the HR document has not been made available to the public.

Commissioner John Daniell shared with me tonight a draft of that policy statement in response to my request of him.

The 42-page document spells out employment and general human resource rules, recruitment and selection guidelines, ethical standards, job classifications, pay, and grievance procedures.

Power Duo

The document allows department heads and elected officials to hire the employees under them following the general guidelines spelled out for the county.

A department director may also dismiss an employee, but only “with the approval of the Chair of the Board of Commissioners and the Administrative Officer.”

The document states that being appointed at a higher rate than the minimum of the class or pay grade will require written approval of the human resources director, the chair of the Board of Commissioners and the administrative officer.

The chair of the Board of Commissioners and administrative officer “may recommend necessary changes to be incorporated in the pay plan during the budget cycle,” the document states.

RAC Recommendation

The Recreational Affairs Committee voted last week to recommend that the BOC take immediate action on the two parcels of land along the Oconee River because of changes made by the legislature in the Georgia Conservation Tax Credit.

Gentry 10/20/2015

Russ Page, who has been a tireless advocate of greenspace, farmland and historic preservation in the county, told the group that House Bill 464, passed this year and signed by the governor, puts on hold, perhaps permanently, the tax credit, which offers a financial incentive for landowners to help protect natural resources.

The bill ends the credit on Dec. 31, 2016, and caps the amount of tax credits allowed in 2016 to $30 million.

Page said it is crucial that the county gets its application in quickly for the funding.

Email Message

Gentry told the RAC members that he had spoken with the owner of an 163-acre tract on both sides of the river and the owner of a 15-acre tract on the east side of the river and that both were interested in working with the county and in obtaining the tax credit.

Gentry also relayed to Chairman Davis that the two landowners “indicated a willingness to preserve the land for both scenic and historical purposes.”

“Please let me know how to advise the RAC on either presenting to the BOC a formal request in writing or if you would prefer a formal presentation,” Gentry said in his email.

Gentry copied that email to Administrative Officer Jeff Benko, who was out of the office last week when the agenda was created and released.

Other Agenda Items

The agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville, also includes an update on the provision of broadband services in the county by the City Of Monroe.

Parts of the county have struggled to get Internet access, and Monroe presented the outline of plans to fill that need last year.

Gentry is scheduled to give an update on renovation of the walking trail at the Bogart Sports Complex.

And the BOC will consider a request from Faye C. Kellar to delay consideration of a rezone request she has made for property along Mars Hill Road until February, when the county is expected to have in place an overlay district for the roadway.

Power Struggle

The role of the chairman of the Board of Commissioners was at the heart of the deliberations that led the four voting members of the BOC, over Davis’ objection, to approve the changes in the county’s organizational policy in 2009.

Davis has continued to resist the policy, and at a staff meeting on Sept. 9 he announced that he wanted all department heads in the future to copy him on any email correspondence they had with Benko.

The Human Resources policy to be considered tomorrow night contains at least 29 references to the “Chair of the Board of Commissioners and the Administrative Officer” as holding equal positions in personnel matters.

Although department heads report to the administrative officer, the document states, as one example, that “upon approval from the Chair of the Board of Commissioners and the Administrative Officer, the work week hours for any department may be modified to meet the specific operational needs of the department or the public.”


Anonymous said...

This would be a disaster to give King Melvin more power!! An example is Mars Hill Road. He is trying to micromanage every thing. Don't trust him.

Anonymous said...

There should be 5 elected commissioners all equal in pay and power. They elect a chairman and vice chairman among themselves. They set policy. They then hire a CEO to run the county and oversee the dept. heads, that way if the CEO doesn't perform as expected changes can easily be made.

Beanne said...

I agree, Anonymous. Leaving personalities aside, why does the county need 2 people doing the same job, which is both expensive and confusing. The chief administrative officer should administrate and the chair of the commission should chair that body. This is a simple, easily understandable way to run the county.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous and Beanne have focused on sound reasons. Four of the sentences above clearly state how to frame duties.

Anonymous said...

We don't need both Chair of the Board of Commissioners and the Administrative Officer basically doing the same job for combined per year salaries of over $204,000. Those salaries need to be cut back along with the $25,000 per year for each commissioner. What other part time job pays $25,000 a year plus benefits?