Members Present: Hon. M. Richard Geiger, Chair; Hon. Ronald Hilden (via telephone); Hon.
Carol Ronning Kapsner; Rodney Olson (via telephone); Kurt Schmidt;
Gladys Schmitt; and Jeanne Walstad.
Members Absent: Hon. John T. Paulson Staff
Others Present: Mike Sandal and Renee Barnaby, Scribe
Chair Geiger called the meeting to order at 1:30 p.m. and welcomed new member, Rodney Olson,
to the meeting.The first item on the agenda was the approval of the Minutes of the December 21,
2005 meeting. It was moved by Gladys Schmitt, seconded by Justice Kapsner, to approve the
December 21, 2005 minutes.Motion carried.
Administrative Rule 33
Chair Geiger drew the members' attention to Administrative Rule 33.He said under this rule, before
the Personnel Policy Board sends anything to the Supreme Court for consideration, the Board must elicit comment from personnel. Once that time has passed, then the Board can forward the item to the Supreme Court.
It was the consensus of the Board that the amendments to Policies 102 and 103 be sent out for comment.After the comment period, the Board will consider any comments received and submit the recommendations to the Supreme Court.
Chair Geiger recalled the veterans’ preference matter was tabled at the December meeting requesting Mike Sandal to study other jurisdictions, including the federal and other court systems, on the degree of defining veterans’ preferences and what exemptions are made. Mr. Sandal provided the Board with the relevant statutes or administrative rules from the surrounding states. He said the statutes are very similar to what North Dakota state law prescribes except for South Dakota, where the veterans' preference law is under administrative code and only provides for a guaranteed interview
of the veteran. With regard to preferences used in the other court systems, Minnesota does not follow their state law regarding veterans' preference, and they do not provide any preferences in their
employment practices. South Dakota does not provide veterans' preference in their recruitment process.Montana, however, follows state veterans' preference laws, verbatim.State law in North Dakota provides veterans' preferences to spouses of disabled veterans who are deceased or spouses
of disabled veterans who, because of their disability, are unemployable.Our current policy does not
provide that preference.
Mr. Sandal further explained our court system currently has an established personnel system whereby
we rank applicants based on knowledge, skills and attributes. Veterans receive an additional 5 points
to that ranking, disabled veterans receive an additional 10 points, and we only consider veterans who
fall under the definition of a wartime vet as provided for in state statute. Disabled veterans, even
though they receive 10 additional points, under state law, are moved to the top of the list regardless
of their score and they are first entitled to the job.Unless we can provide justifiable cause for going
around an otherwise higher rated applicant, we have to hire that person. The mere fact that there are
other applicants who have better skills does not constitute justifiable cause.Justifiable cause needs
to be something to show that they cannot perform the duties of the job.
With regard to the higher-level positions, Mike said is important we hire the person who has the best
skills, not just the person who meets the minimum qualifications.We need to provide flexibility for
the higher-level positions but still meet the intent of the law. There are implications in our
recruitment process if we decide to change the list of exempted positions or change how we apply
the veterans' preference law. It is easy to make the changes but the implications are quite significant
if you practice them.
Judge Geiger said he received an e-mail from Sally Holewa wherein she states it is important the
Board consider the reasons why the court has chosen to make some positions exempt as opposed to
just focusing on whether or not veterans' preferences or expanded veterans' preferences are
desirable. It is nice to do what we can for those who have been in the military, but we need to put
it in the context of the organization also.
In response to a question from Judge Hilden inquiring if anyone has raised the issue of veterans’
preference while seeking employment within the judicial system, Mike Sandal responded he is
not aware of any situation where a veteran has appealed our decision to not hire them. Our managers
have done a good job in identifying justifiable cause for selecting a non-veteran over a veteran. Under the
court's policies, a veteran could appeal to the state court administrator.
It was moved by Rod Olson, seconded by Gladys Schmitt, to modify Policy 118, 5a to add the trial
court manager to the list of exceptions.
Mr. Olson said under Admin. R. 6.1, the trial court manager position has developed into high-level
management and would naturally follow with the people currently listed on the on the list. A trial
court manager works very closely with the trial court administrator and the reasons we were
exempting certain people on this list is because of that working relationship.He feels there is a clear
line between trial court managers and other positions.
Jeanne Walstad questioned whether there was any reason not to give preference rather than adding more exemptions. She would like to see the veterans’ preference be as extensive as it can but still
preserve the integrity of our process and managerial positions.
Mr. Sandal said the current policy, as written, is working well for the courts. It provides some
additional flexibility for the court to hire higher-level positions. On the flipside, he believes the
veterans’ preference law, as defined in state statute, is workable and we could come to a similar
conclusion for these types of positions.The major difference would be we would have to go a more
formal ranking system to clearly document and justify reasons why we went around an otherwise
higher-ranking applicant, whether veteran or not, so we maintain that established personnel system.
Ms. Walstad stated under the current motion, the trial court manager would be added to the list of
exempt positions and asked if all supervisory/managerial positions would be exempt. Mike
responded that under the current policy, the list has only included upper management and has not
created any problems.
After further discussion, the motion failed. Mike Sandal was directed to draft proposed
language that would include spouses of disabled veterans and spouses of deceased veterans in
the preference formulas and applicants under our current policies and bring it to the next
Policy 103, Employee Compensation
Chair Geiger then drew attention to a pending motion, which was tabled at the December meeting,
to modify Policy 103 to include a new section C4.
Mr. Sandal recalled when the Board was addressing the realtime court reporter issue, a set of
guidelines were developed. After completing the court reporter classification change, the Board felt
it should consider using those guidelines and apply them to future certification requests in the court
system.The proposed language includes those initial guidelines and the intent is limited, based on
the organization's needs. The certificate needs to be nationally recognized and required for the
performance of a position. It involves extensive training, testing and continued education. The chief
justice must approve the one-step increase.
In response to a question from Kurt Schmidt asking what types of requests were anticipated, Mr.
Sandal responded it is hard to speculate at this point. However, he does not see the intent of the
policy to provide a one-step salary increase for every potential certificate an individual could
receive.It has to be something that is required by the court for the employee to do the job. It starts
with the employer.
After further discussion, the motion to adopt the revisions to Policy 103, C4 carried and the
policy will be sent out for comment. After the comment period, the Board will consider any
comments received and submit the recommendation to the Supreme Court.
At the December meeting, the Board modified Policy 103, 4b, to provide a promoted employee shall
receive a salary increase to the step in the new pay grade which represents at least a 5%
increase.Mike Sandal cautioned that could mean two steps, not just one, because our steps, as
currently outlined, are at a 4.3% spread. Therefore, keeping people on step by requiring at least a
minimum of 5%, could mean two steps.
In response to a question from Chair Geiger as to the financial impact, Mr. Sandal said it would be
minimal because it does not occur very often.
After further discussion, it was the consensus of the Board to send the policy, as previously amended,
out for comment. After the comment period, the Board will consider any comments received and
submit its recommendation to the Supreme Court.
Mike Sandal explained the intent of the draft language is to provide the supervisor with the ability
to recommend the salary of an employee be increased up to two steps for serving in an interim
appointment when the appointment is for 60 days or longer. It gives the court the ability to
compensate an employee for those additional duties and responsibilities during the time they are
performing at the higher level. At the end of the assignment, the employee would go back to their
It was moved by Rod Olson, seconded by Jeanne Walstad, to adopt the proposed language
under paragraph 9 of Policy 103.
Kurt Schmidt suggested language be added to specify that the interim appointment is in addition to
the current job duties.
In response to a question from Jeanne Walstad regarding whether this could apply to duties and
responsibilities, Mr. Sandal responded the intent is to fill the gap of the vacant position and workload
increases would not apply.
Mr. Schmidt stated the policy currently states 60 days but many times that is not enough time to fill
a position and asked if the appointments could be made in arrears. Mr. Sandal responded arrears
should not be an issue.
Justice Kapsner suggested arrears might be an issue under item 10.
Jeanne Walstad questioned the state court administrator making the final decision because often
times the state court administrator would be the recommender. She would rather see the supervisor
make a request, and the state court administrator recommend it to the Chief.
Rod Olson suggested it should be up to the state court administrator because it all falls under her job
duties. The state court administrator is the administrator of the court system and part those duties
is case assignment and job descriptions.
The motion to adopt subsection 9 of Policy 103, as contained in attachment 6, passed
unanimously and will be sent out for comment. After the comment period, the Board will
consider any comments received and submit its recommendation to the Supreme Court.
Cost Estimates to Delete Transition Steps
Mike Sandal explained the next item was for informational purposed only. He said back in October
2004, when the new salary structure was implemented, it was cost prohibitive for the court to move
into full implementation. As a result, four substeps (D, C, B, A) were established. On July 1, 2005,
we were fiscally able to eliminate steps D and C which leaves us with B and A before full
implementation. Susan Sisk provided cost estimates of eliminating the various steps at two different
time frames, June 1 and October 1. It is her conclusion that it would be fiscally imprudent at this
time to drop either step B or step A. Mike pointed out, however, that because of our step system and
people moving every two years from one step to another, next year at this time, a lot of the people
who are currently on step B will have moved to step A. Only people who are new hires would
remain on step B and it is very likely we would be able to drop step B next year at this time. For the
time being, the elimination of step B and step A is not recommended.
Mike Sandal said the next meeting is scheduled for May 22 from 10 to 1 and lunch will be served.