Call in the Medics

Folks, Lake Park is in poor health at the moment. We’ve been faltering. The symptoms have been nagging at us and we can no longer deny the pain. Something has wormed its way deep inside and the infection has run rampant, making its way to the very heart of things… our town documents. One of those documents is the new employee handbook.

But do not despair… there is hope! At last night’s commission meeting, two residents came forward to present concerns regarding this revised employee handbook, which was behind some of the controversy surrounding the resignation of Maria Davis as Lake Park Town Manager. After a review of the old and the new documents, it has been discovered that numerous changes have been made that have weakened our town and put us at risk of further infection. Below is the presentation made by Diane Bernhard. She was kind enough to provide me with her comments, and a copy of the handout she provided to the commission, to post here for your perusal.

The first order of business when there is illness or infection is to discern exactly what the source of the problem is and root it out. One has to face the fact that there is trouble and get some help. That’s not being negative, the symptoms are already shouting “trouble” and causing pain. That negative already exists; we just want to correct those problems so we can get on with a healthy life. Looking the problem square in the eye, sizing it up and presenting a course of treatment and following it through is the necessary, common sense course of action. There’s no time to waste. This infection will take us down if we do not face it and take the necessary steps to rid ourselves of it. The exploratory surgery has been underway by a few vigilant citizens…it’s up to the town commission to authorize the continued treatment.

From Diane:

2/15/2012

I’d like to take a moment to welcome Interim Town Manager Titcomb. I hope you’ll enjoy your time with us, sir. If nothing else, we’ll provide you with dinner conversations for years to come!

On a more serious note…  One of the major issues leading up to the resignation of our former Town Manager was the new “Handbook of Procedures for Employees of Lake Park.” We all know that an exorbitant amount of money was paid for that handbook. However, upon reading that booklet it’s obvious to me that the cost is not the only thing to worry about.

According to the new handbook, the responsibilities and powers of the Town Manager have grown considerably since the last printing in 1996. This should be of great concern to all of us who live in Lake Park. We had the right to expect the simple updating of our town’s handbook, without the arbitrary and unilateral inflation of powers now assigned to the position of Town Manager. We need a reversal of those changes before they become the bible by which the new Town Manager performs his or her job.

Of course, none of us want to spend another $110,000 or even another $4,000 to write a new handbook.  So I would like to suggest that you call for volunteers to work with you in a review committee, perhaps in a series of workshops to reformulate the 2009 version.  I, for one, will be glad to devote some of my time and energy to that effort.

Thank you.

Oh!  Here’s a little handbook trivia!

Sue Lloyd informs me that in the 1996 version of the handbook, the words “Town Manager” were mentioned 49 times.  In the 2009 version, they were mentioned 130 times!

February 15, 2012

The following is respectfully submitted to the

MAYOR, TOWN COMMISSIONERS, INTERIM TOWN MANAGER, TOWN ATTORNEY, and TOWN CLERK.

By

Diane Bernhard

Town Resident, Lake Park, Florida

Here are a few passages taken from the 1996 and 2009 Editions of The Town of Lake Park Employee Handbook.  There are many more like these to be found.

Please note:  The 1996 Edition, P. 8, references the Town of Lake Park Code, Chapter 2.  There are no such references to Lake Park Code in the 2009 Edition.

Subject:  Determination of Work Hours

2009 Edition

P. 18, line 1

“The Town Manager, in consultation with Department Heads establishes the hours of work within the work week for each department.”

1996 Edition

P. 11, line 9

“Within departments, hours of work can be determined by the department head.”

P. 29, line 19

“Each department establishes its hours of work.”

Subject:  Grounds for Disciplinary Action

2009 Edition

P. 50, 7.9, Category I- Grounds for Disciplinary Action, S.

“Engaging in an action which the Town Manager determines is sufficient cause for discipline under this category.”

P. 51, 7.10, Category II – Grounds for Disciplinary Action,

First Offense:

“ Documented Written Reprimand or Suspension of up to three workdays without pay at the determination of the Town Manager.

Second Offense:

“Suspension of greater than three workdays without pay at the determination of the Town Manager.”

P. 52, 7.10, Category II – Grounds for Disciplinary Action, V.

“Engaging in an action which the Town Manager determines is sufficient cause for discipline under this category.”

P. 54, 7.11, Y

“Any action determined by the Town Manager to be so serious as to warrant immediate termination of employment.”

1996 Edition

Pp. 23 – 28, Disciplinary Action Guidelines.

There is no mention of any Disciplinary Action taking place at the determination of the Town Manager.

Subject:  Administration of Policy

1996 Edition

P. 10, L 19, Administration of Policy:

a. The Town Manager shall present to the Town Commission such rules, regulations and changes thereto which are necessary for effective administration of the Personnel System.

b. Amendments, changes and revisions to the rules and regulations shall be recommended by the Town Manager to the Mayor and Town Commission for final approval.

2009 Edition

P. 9, 1.2, Administration of the Plan:

The Town Manager, through the Human Resources Department shall be responsible for the overall coordination, review, control and administration of the Handbook.

Positions are reclassified by official Town Commission action submitted by the Town Manager.  Town Commission approval must be obtained to create, establish or delete positions or effect classification changes.

A periodic review shall be performed by the Human Resources Department to ensure that the classification system is current and uniform.  Any modification will be presented to the Town Manager for consideration and recommendation to the Town Commission.

The Town Manager shall present to the Town Commission such rules, regulations and changes that are deemed necessary for effective administration of the classification system.

Subject:  Some random phrases and statements

Copied from the 2009 Edition:

P. 3, L30.

“The Town Manager is hereby authorized to enforce the rules, regulations, policies and procedures set forth in the Handbook upon the Town’s workforce.”

P. 47, 7.1, Scope and Purpose, L8.

“Managerial Exempt Department Heads, Assistant Department Heads, and other specifically designated positions serve at the pleasure of the Town Manager and may be subject to dismissal from employment with the Town with or without cause and without appeal rights in accordance with Town policy and procedures.”

Subject: DEPARTMENT HEADS, ASSISTANT DEPARTMENT HEADS AND OTHER SPECIFICALLY DESIGNATED POSITIONS WHO SERVE AT THE PLEASURE OF THE TOWN MANAGER

2009 Edition

P. 82

Department Heads:

  • Chief Information Technology Officer
  • Community Development Director
  • Finance Director
  • Grants Writer
  • Harbor Marina Director
  • Human Resources Director
  • Library Director
  • Public Works Director
  • Recreation Director
  • Town Clerk

Assistant Department Heads:

  • Assistant Town Manager
  • Assistant to the Town Manager
  • Assistant to the Finance Director
  • Operations Manager

Other Specifically Designated Positions:

  • Building Official
  • Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Economic Development Director
  • CRA Project Manager
  • Dockmaster
  • Librarian I
  • Librarian II
  • Senior Registered Civil Engineer
  • Senior Registered Architect

Please note that there are 22 key positions/people on this list dependant upon the good will of the Town Manager to keep their jobs.  Is it any wonder that there are so many of us in Lake Park who feel that the office of Town Manager invests too much power into the hands of one individual?

~~~~

Time will tell whether or not the commission will take up Sue Lloyd and Diane Bernhard’s suggestions to form a citizen’s review committee. At the end of the meeting last night, while Commissioner Stevens agreed that the Town Manager had too much power and that the language should change, he stated something to the effect that he feels we should really spend time reviewing the town code, town charter and the town manager’s contract. To that, we say, “GREAT!” By all means these DO need a thorough review and revision, and an effort to assess these documents is already underway by citizens as well. I’m telling you, the infection has spread far and wide. We could use a check up of everything!

However, we would hope that doing so would not preclude us from focusing on citizen involvement in the review and revision of the handbook, which Commissioners Hockman and Longtin agreed they would like to see the commission authorize. There are many other disconcerting policies and procedures that have been put into place with the handbook rewrite in addition to what has been mentioned already. This is important. With many people involved, and some organization, we can correct the damage that has been done and rid all of our core documents of the problems that are attacking our vital organs and making our town weak from within.

Managing our own health

When we do begin to review the charter, etc., I do NOT feel it should be done, as the mayor suggested, by looking to outside organizations and associations for direction as to what is best for us. Let’s keep it close to the vest and let common sense from within our own town dictate our future, not some international organization. After all, It was stated at the meeting last night that the ICMA was the one who provided the wording for Maria Davis’ contract in the first place. Yikes! Read that contract (see previous post: Ya Start All Over Again for the link) and tell me you have faith in the ICMA. Why are we looking to these organizations to manage our health as a town? Are we sure the infection didn’t come from our contact with them in the first place? Let’s be vigilant over the well-being of Lake Park and not leave it to someone else who may have their own interests in what happens to us.

If our leaders would begin to focus on taking care of all of our town’s structure first and foremost, much of the wasted time and money we throw around trying to stop the “bleeding” and to put us out of our misery from the “infections” afterward could be avoided. But, please, let’s step away from the ICMA and let our town, its commission and our residents start to heal what ails us.

The involvement of the citizens to review and revise the trouble spots within these documents is a great step toward a healthy, vibrant Town of Lake Park. Yes, the treatment is gonna hurt a little, and it may take some time, but we’ll all be the better for it in the end.

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