Fire department’s HR director job could become temporary

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By Vicky Gits

The human resources director position surfaced again as a bone of contention at the Evergreen Fire Protection District meeting Nov. 19 at department headquarters on Bergen Parkway.

The topic came up in the wake of the resignation of Sheri Lyn Majors, who was hired in October as a part-time staff person for 16 hours a week after the resignation of consultant Patti Duncan. Majors left after four weeks to return to her former employer.

Board member Charles Simons suggested eliminating the $26,000-a-year position as a way to save money, since the person has to handle “only” about 30 paid staff people. Board member George Kling supported him. The department has 38 paid staff positions, including five part-time.

But the rest of the board was opposed to eliminating the job entirely, and the vote was 3-2. In the end, the board unanimously passed a resolution that the hiring process would go forward, but the job will become temporary for six months, after which it will be re-evaluated.

Fire Chief Garry DeJong opposed the idea of eliminating the job.

“If the motion passes, I’m not an expert in HR,” he said. “I can’t be sure to avoid litigation. We will need to hire a consultant or we will put ourselves in a dangerous situation.”

“I feel a professional HR person is a very needed and valuable resource person,” DeJong said Monday after the meeting. “We haven’t had a person working that position and see what productivity we get out of there. I think (the resolution) allows me to have the resource, see if we can get value out of it, and allows the board to still have control over the positions.”

DeJong said Monday he was close to hiring someone but was not sure how the person would react to the idea of a possibly temporary job.

He said there were certain training matters and legal issues that someone with HR expertise is in a better position to handle. “I would say the HR person handles many more than 30 people,” De Jong said.

Board member George Goldbach pointed out that the job’s pay level,which previously was $60 an hour on a consulting basis, already had been reduced to about $31 an hour, with pro rata benefits. It was also downgraded earlier this year from director level to manager level. “I used my HR person to keep me out of jail,” said Goldbach, a former fire service administrator.

DeJong said hiring a consultant for HR on an as-needed basis would cost about $95 an hour.

In March, the board of directors voted to cut both the finance director’s and human resources director’s pay from $70 and $60 per hour, respectively, with no benefits, to $50 per hour with partial, pro-rated time-off benefits.

Then-finance director Christina Griggs said she would continue in the job indefinitely, but she resigned in June, saying she was unhappy with the political climate in the fire agency.

The new finance director, Brent Worthington, was hired for 20 hours a week at $42 per hour. The current HR manager job pays about $31.25 per hour.

After being elected to replace longtime board president Phil Shanley in a recall election Nov. 14, 2007, Goldbach began questioning whether the finance and human resources directors’ positions were being compensated at a level higher than the industry standard.

Evergreen Fire/Rescue employs 33 full-time and five part-time employees. Salaries range from about $13 per hour for a part-time administrative specialist to $105,000 for DeJong.

Fire board votes to go to all night meetings in 2009

In a resolution that passed 5-0, the board of directors voted Nov. 19 to hold all meetings of the Evergreen Fire Protection District beginning in 2009 at night and no meetings in the mornings during work hours.

Until the election of the new board this year and a complete turnover in the composition of the board as of October, meetings traditionally had been held at district headquarters at 8 a.m. the fourth Friday of the month.