LIMA — Lima administrators will now be required to give a monthly update on hiring situations after other workers objected to a practice recently used to hire a temporary worker.
Councilors discussed the issue at great length Tuesday and finally reached a decision to have the update. The decision was sparked after a city worker had approached several councilors and voiced concern about a position filled in the Water Department.
Administrators have a $15,000 cushion for purchases made without having to approach City Council, a move made to save valuable time in emergency situations without waiting up to two weeks for a council meeting.
However, a worker in the Water Department was hired through a temporary service agency that required a Class IV engineer license. While councilors never divulged which position it was, they discussed the hiring in question as being an employee who had come back on as a worker through retire/rehire.
Two people working in water utilities — water treatment plant supervisor Terry Huber and wastewater treatment plant supervisor Russell Bales — are recent retire/rehires in the Water Department. Utilities Director Gary Sheely said the rehiring was done according to the civil service selection process, but councilors were worried a measure passed for the benefit of saving time could be misused.
“I want all hirings to come before the council,” Councilwoman Teresa Adams said.
Adams said she had been approached about the subject by someone who may have possibly had an interest in the position.
It was argued that city administration had to make a quick hiring because state guidelines require someone with a Class IV license be involved with the operating of water utilities no less than 40 hours a week. However, Councilman Sam McLean said the council may have never even heard about the hiring if they had not been notified by other workers.
“It could have looked shady to other workers,” McLean said. “The $15,000 was approved because an emergency like a set of tires might arise, and they can be expensive. It wasn’t meant for this.”
“Sometimes it could be cumbersome because it hadn’t been changed [the spending limit] for years,” Councilman Tom Tebben said. “We were required to go for bids and it slowed the process down. But it wasn’t intended to go out and hire temporary help.”
Councilman Derry Glenn agreed the council needed to be informed of all hirings, and reiterated his position of using temporary workers only in extreme situations.
“There are college students out there that have the degrees and want to work,” Glenn said. “We need to post these kind of jobs and see if someone wants them.”
While the council did not select a specific administrator to give the report, they unanimously approved a motion to have a report issued at the first council meeting of each month detailing what people were in what positions with a start and end date, if applicable, for those hirings. Tebben said that City Auditor Gene Reaman would be the “logical choice” to give the report. Councilman Kurt Neeper said he feels the move will address all of the council’s concerns.
“I am not as opposed to using temporary service agencies as some of my fellow councilors,” Neeper said. “That being said, it is my opinion that we need to know how money is being spent. That is our check on the administration. They needed to be brought back in line.”
Councilwoman Paige Townsend said the council needed to be alert, but that a certain level of trust had to be allowed to city administrators.
“Frankly, I think we need to afford them some discretion,” Townsend said. “I am not a micromanager. There is a trust element involved.”