Archive for Thursday, April 5, 2001

Were city workers hired in violation of policy?

April 5, 2001

Two new employees at the Eudora wastewater treatment may have been hired in a violation of the city's own hiring policy.

At a March 12 city council meeting, city superintendent Bill Harlow and the council met in executive session to discuss wages for two potential hires for the wastewater plant. The group also discussed wages for two potential hires for city electric linemen. After the meeting the council agreed, but did not vote on, Harlow to continue "negotiations" with the prospective employees.

According to the city's hiring procedures, the council must, by a majority vote, give consent to a department head to hire an individual.

The two prospects for the wastewater plant began work Monday, without a majority vote from the council. The two city electric linemen prospects aren't expected to begin work until April 16.

Harlow said his understanding was that he had the green light to hire the workers.

"We need people and I had the right to go ahead and hire them," Harlow said. "They told me to negotiate and that's what I did."

Council member Rex Burkhardt said that was not his understanding.

"It's one thing to talk to people and see if they're interested and get a feel for if they're interested," he said, "and it's another thing to get approval to hire."

However, council member Tom Pyle said he recalled the chain of events differently.

"That's a personnel deal and we had already authorized him," Pyle said. "We've been short of people and needed the help. We told him to pick the ones he had several people and that's the way it was."

Jerry Cooley, city attorney, said though Harlow hired the workers without an approved motion from the council, he did not violate any laws. Cooley said the issue could probably be easily reconciled.

"I think they can come out in the open, come out in the next meeting and confirm he is authorized to make those hirings," he said. "Just reaffirm the issue.

"I'll get into it."

After a 90-day probationary period, the council must also vote on approval for permanent status. All applicants must pass a mandatory drug test.

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