BY LAUREN HENRY
The Greeneville Civil Service Board met in a three-and-a-half-hour workshop Thursday to discuss revisions that need to be made to the Greeneville Civil Service Handbook to reflect the change in the town charter that officially took effect in May.
The charter was amended to provide for the position of Greeneville City Administrator,with a few other related modifications.
Under the change, the city administrator oversees the daily operations of the town's departments and reports to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Todd Smith has served in that capacity for several months.
The Civil Service Handbook was revised most recently in 2009. The handbook deals specifically with town employees who are covered by the town's civil service system.
Those employees are referred to as the "classified services," which include the Greeneville Police Department, the Greeneville Fire Department, and the employees of the City Recorder's Office.
The Civil Service Board, which met at the Central Fire Hall, has been discussing what revisions should be made to the Civil Service Handbook to reflect the change in the Greeneville charter.
City Administrator Smith was present to assist with wording changes in the Civil Service Handbook to make that handbook consistent with the revised Town Of Greeneville Employee Handbook, which was adopted this week by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Most of the changes in the Civil Service Handbook were related to the city administrator's new role, and would be designed to clarify that role with regard to those in the town's classified services.
"All of these changes are pertaining to Todd," Civil Service Board Chairman Ed Kershaw said, although issues beyond the change to city administrator were also discussed.
The board had asked attorney T. Wood Smith to review the Civil Service Handbook and suggest changes. The resulting five-page letter from Smith guided the discussion Thursday night.
Kershaw led the discussion of each of the 33 points raised in the letter as well as revisions or questions raised by fire Chief Mark Foulks.
While some points were minor revisions to language, other points addressed broader issues, such as testing, promotions, hiring, leave without pay and residency requirements.
Regarding the hiring of classified service employees, discussion centered around residency requirements.
First, the board deleted wording that required that applicants be residents of Tennessee for one year. The board members wanted to open the applicant pool to include a wider range of potential applicants.
However, the board does believe that those in classified service should live in the area once they are hired.
Viewpoints differed on whether the requirement should be based on distance from the employee's residence to the place of work (such as the Fire Department, Town Hall, etc.), or whether the requirement should be that all employees live within Greene County, or within the Town of Greeneville itself.
Wording was deleted that would require department heads to live inside the Greeneville town limits.
But the board felt it was important to retain the requirement that employees live within the county.
If the residency requirement was dropped, board Secretary Karen Kilday commented, "We pay them, and they go back to their county to spend our money there."
However, Chief Foulks noted that the residency requirement may limit the applicant pool.
He cited Johnson City, which he said has employees from three counties.
Foulks said that, for him, the most important issue is response time to the place of employment in case of emergency.
Administrator Smith suggested that the handbook comply with the wording of the town's own new employee handbook.
This handbook kept the county residency requirement but added the phrase, "extenuating circumstances will be considered by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to waive the residency requirements."
New employees would have a six-month grace period to establish residency.
There was a bit of disagreement over who should have authority to approve standard operating guidelines that are set by the individual classified services departments.
Kershaw said the board has a responsibility to at least read operating guidelines before approving wording in the Civil Sevice Handbook that requires employees to abide by the guidelines.
Chief Foulks said the Fire Department is in the process of writing standard operating procedures but no formal document exists at present.
Foulks said that standard operating procedures are not a matter for the Civil Service Board.
Rather, he said, the procedures require technical expertise to fully understand, and would bring the board into an uncomfortable position of liability.
For example, the board would have liability problems approving procedures for the Police Department that would require using force even though that is required of the officers in certain situations.
Kershaw replied, "If you're asking for a blank check, OK, then No."
The board decided, at least for now, to strike the language that referred to the operating guidelines.
"If an employee feels they have been wrongly dismissed, then they can come to us, and we will go to [the procedures] then," board member Tim Teague said.
Town Recorder Carol Susong was present for the workshop and suggested the town have employee applications available online.
Currently, interested applicants must pick up and sign for applications in person.
The board decided to strike the wording that required an in-person application pickup.
The exam scores for an applicant's tests for classified service positions will be available for the applicant's inspection.
The board cleaned up language to allow the applicant to see his or her examination scores but not the interview notes.
In the event that the city administrator is unable to complete his administrative duties, the board introduced wording that his "duly appointed designee" will inherit his responsibilities.
Smith said he is preparing a memo outlining a plan of succession should something happen to him.
LEAVE OF ABSENCE
Leave of absence were a matter of discussion for the board.
The existing policy that allows for a leave of absence for 180 days without pay has been taken advantage of in the past, said Captain Bill Teague Jr. of the Fire Department.
According to Teague, some employees have used the leave of absence policy to accept a new job, giving themselves the option of returning to the original position of classified service if the new job did not work out within the six months of "leave."
The Civil Service Handbook policy conflicts with the Town of Greeneville Employee Handbook, which states that an employee may apply for leave without pay after a period of six-months of sick leave.
The 1953 Civil Service Act, which created the Civil Service Board, is what dictates the content of the handbook put out by the Civil Service Board.
"If there is a conflict between the handbook and the act, the act is what rules," Kershaw said.
The board decided to reflect the exact wording of the act itself, which keeps the 180 days of leave without pay.
The board also discussed the possibility of amending the Civil Service Act.
In order to do so, the amendments would have to be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. The board is considering this option.
The revisions discussed Thursday evening are not final, and any amendments made to the Civil Service Handbook would still need to be formally approved.
The next Civil Service Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at Greeneville Town Hall.