What’s in a Handbook?

~ Written by Diane Bernhard ~

Even important issues can lose their edge if discussed and debated over-long. This could happen to the proposed revisions of our Town’s Employee Handbook. You may be wondering what the big deal is – after all, it’s just a workplace manual…

Oh, but it’s so much more than that! This legal document defines every employee’s duties and obligations to the Town and defines the Town’s responsibilities to the employees. It does the same for all Supervisors and Department Heads, too, as well as describing the rights and responsibilities of the Town Manager.

Checks and Balances

But, here comes the rub. This handbook could also be used to stage a political coup! According to the current (2009) edition, that our Town paid an exorbitant amount of money for, the powers of the Town Manager have grown considerably since the last printing in 1996. There has been an arbitrary and unilateral inflation of powers assigned to the position of Town Manager; with corresponding downgrades in the power and participation of supervisors and department heads that were not evident in the previous manual. Gone, too, are many of the “checks and balances” that were written into the previous edition.

There are many key positions or people who now “Serve at the pleasure of the Town Manager and may be terminated from employment without cause and without the right to appeal such termination”. Here are a few picked at random: Harbor Marina Director, Finance Director, Library Director, Public Works Director, Recreation Director, Town Clerk, Human Resources Director, Community Development Director.

We need a reversal of those changes before they become the legacy of the previous Town Manager and the bible by which subsequent Town Managers perform the job.

Why the Delay?

On May 2, 2012 an Ordinance was passed by our Mayor and Commissioners allowing the changes to be made. Webster’s On-line Dictionary defines an ordinance as “1. An authoritative rule or law; a decree or command. 2. A public injunction or regulation.”

You would think that would be enough to get the ball rolling… Not so in the zany world of Lake Park politics! Mayor DuBois – who voted in favor of the ordinance – now, at this advanced date — wants a workshop to discuss the changes. He seemed genuinely surprised at the number of changes to be made, though I could have sworn he’d been receiving regular email updates as the work progressed. Here’s a quote from our Mayor, “I’m an old fashioned kind of guy. I think the Town Manager should have even more power.”

By now you must be as confused as I am – but I hope you clearly understand that this issue can not be allowed to fade away because of neglect, or delaying tactics. Please, exercise your right to be heard! Send an email, or make a phone call to our Mayor and Commissioners. Attend the Wednesday-night meetings and speak about this issue. And please, add your comments here, too!

Thank you.


Don’t forget tonight’s commission meeting at 7:00 p.m.