Augusta personnel policy changes headed to commission committee

Proposed changes to the city personnel manual are moving on to an Augusta Commission committee.

 

Commissioner Ben Hasan, who differed with some of consultant Jonathan Boxer’s recommendations, said the Administrative Services committee will thoroughly “vet” the revisions.

“We put too much stock in the consultant,” Hasan said.

“He presented options to us, as opposed to solutions.”

Commissioners and city staff spent two hours teleconferencing with Boxer on Wednesday about the details of resolving employee disputes and probationary work periods. The discussion followed earlier meetings of two and four hours.

City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson, who recommended Boxer for hire, questioned some of his recom­mendations, such as not giving promoted staff a probationary period.

“People really do reach their level of incompetence at some point,” she said.

Boxer said promoted employees shouldn’t lose “all their rights and revert to the status of a probationary employee,” but rather be dealt with through corrective action.

In another area that remains up for committee debate, Boxer said zero tolerance for employees who use drugs is an “idiot way” to administer substance abuse testing, while Compliance Director Kellie Irving suggested the city “should move in a direction of zero tolerance.”

Commissioner Bill Lock­ett offered an anecdote about a one-time drug user having a very bad day who eventually lost his job.

“This is why I don’t support zero tolerance,” he said.

Wednesday’s discussion did not touch on two more significant changes – instituting a fair chance hiring policy to ignore criminal convictions in the hiring process and expanding nondiscrimination policies to individuals based on sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.

Boxer, a California attorney, was hired without a competitive bid process by General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie at the recommendation of Jackson, under an exception to the city procurement code making the city attorney “responsible for selecting attorneys and litigation professionals,” Jackson said.

The matter came up when Mayor Hardie Davis was denied access to some of Boxer’s work related to the fair chance hiring policy. MacKenzie said it might be subject to attorney-client privilege because Boxer is a lawyer.

In another matter, a city rules subcommittee meeting earlier Wednesday threw out a revision requiring a commissioner wait six months before presenting an agenda item voted down by the commission.

Opposed by Com­mission­er Marion Williams, who is known to return defeated items to meeting agendas, the subcommittee decided to allow the items back through the committee process.

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