By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Mayor Brian Arrigo campaigned on a promise to professionalize City Hall, starting with a human resources department. Monday night Mary Aicardi, of the Collins Center for Public Management, presented a study conducted for the purpose of reviewing the organization of human resources and policies in city government.
Revere is one of only three cities or towns in the state that does not have a municipal human resources department. The other two communities are Amesbury and North Adams.
“It is critical to have an effective human resources system,” Aicardi said during her 45-minute presentation. “This is a city with a $170 million budget and there isn’t one person to handle human resources. Also, the lack of policies are woeful.”
She added that liability is also a concern. She noted that in one community an employee lawsuit resulted in a $4 million settlement.
Besides setting up a human resources department, one of the suggestions in the report is to change the residency requirement for city employees and make it a preference instead of a requirement,
an issue that drew mixed concerns from the 11 city councillors.
The report states that, “The City has a restrictive residency requirement which hinders the ability to recruit the best possible candidates for positions. While the residency requirement can be waived, it sends a chill to potential candidates and discourages people from other municipalities from applying for positions. The City should change its policy from a residency requirement to a residency preference. Doing so will encourage qualified candidates to apply for positions, particularly at the department head level.”
When Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Patch discussed the residency requirement and waivers given in the past, Arrigo took issue.
“I’m sensitive to the idea that this administration is doing something improperly,” Arrigo said. “It’s not what my administration is about. Bear with the administration that we’re doing things properly.”
“This is a breath of fresh air,” said Ward 5 Councillor John Powers, who is pro-preference. “Over the past several decades people have been hired because of a political campaigns.”
The city has 425 full-and-part-time employees and the school department has 1,375 regular, part-time and temporary employees. In addition there are 506 retirees with benefits.
The city does not have a centralized human resources system. According to the report, the result of this is a “disjointed, inconsistent and substandard system.”
“Every person interviewed expressed frustration about not having a consistent process for recruitment, hiring and orientation; about lack of universal policies and application of policies; lack of training; and about not having a place to go when human resource issues arise,” the report stated.
“The word we used with this city is ‘inconsistent,” Aicardi said, but adding that employees in the city tend to stay with the city. “That’s amazing.”
The report was compiled after discussion with numerous department heads.
The report states that by making a commitment to create a comprehensive, centralized human resources department, the City has taken the first step towards enhancing the organization, being fully compliant with state and federal laws and applying the appropriate resources to its most important resource, its employees, the ones who deliver the services to the residents.
“The City has fallen behind by not having a centralized professional human resources department. The City has experienced litigation, increased legal expenses, the inability to recruit and retain talent, and poor morale which impacts the delivery of services,” the report states.
Other recommendations in the report include:
Implement the creation of a centralized Human Resources Department, with an HR Director, Benefits Coordinator and a clerical employee;
Immediately centralized all recruitment and selection processes;
Develop a comprehensive classification system including position descriptions;
Immediately develop the critical policies and procedures of Conflict of Interest/Ethics, CORI, FMLA, Discrimination and Discipline;
Create a comprehensive set of human resource policies;
Provide training to department heads and supervisors on critical policies and develop a long-term approach to training;
Aicardi also noted that there is no centralized hiring. Over the years people have been hired by department heads. There is also not a universal job application and some of the applications ask for date of birth and social security numbers, which are not supposed to be asked. She said the city is also in “woeful” lack of policies, even basic ones like sexual harassment and family leave. There is no place for an employee to go to if there is a problem with their boss.
“This is a core function of city government,” Arrigo said.
The report was sent to the Appointments and Personnel Committee for further review and action.