Personnel Policy Board
7:30 a.m., Thursday, June 10, 1999
Radisson Hotel, Bismarck
Penny Miller, Chair
Judge Mikal Simonson
Justice Mary Maring
Judge Bruce Bohlman
Judge Lawrence Jahnke
Chair Miller called the meeting to order at 7:35 a.m and called the member's attention to the first item on the agenda, the Minutes of the May 6, March 11 and February 9 meeting for review. The Minutes were approved by consensus.
Overview of Personnel System - Cass County
Chair Miller introduced Bonnie Johnson, Personnel Administrator for Cass County. Chair Miller explained that Ms. Johnson was there to discuss their personnel system. More importantly, the rational behind the discussion to out-source reclassification requests and the experiences since that decision.
Bonnie Johnson explained that in the past, the county commission had made all decisions on salaries, classification, etc., based on the recommendations of department heads. The pay levels and classifications of employees were at least partly dependent on the philosophy of the department head and that person's relationship with the commissioners. Pay policies and personnel issues were inconsistently applied and a perception of unfairness and inequities existed. About 10 years ago, the Cass County state's attorney formed a committee of 12 - 6 department heads and 6 employees - in an attempt to establish consistency. While that group made some progress, the perception of favoritism remained. Also, employees and administrators questioned where the group got its authority and what qualifications in personnel they brought to the table.
The commission then hired a local consultant to establish a classification and pay system. Again, because the person was local, a perception of favoritism existed. The consultant was well known and whenever the person had coffee or met someone on the golf course, the rumors would start.
The commission then hired a full-time human resource professional from out-of-state. While the person brought a lot of experience and expertise, the person could not overcome the perception of internal favoritism. If the individual had coffee with the auditor or clerk of court, it was thought that their office was receiving favoritism. That person lasted about one year.
The county then sought bids from public sector accounting firms and selected a big eight accounting firm, which eventually evolved into Fox, Lawson & Associates. Through that process, the county established definitive policies relating to pay and classifications. That is, they defined their pay philosophy, how classifications would be reviewed, how their market would be established, how salaries would be set, etc.
Under the current system, Ms. Johnson serves as the Personnel Administrator. The county has a personnel board made up of the commission and five employee-department heads that review personnel matters and make recommendations to the commission. The county now out-sources classification reviews, the classification of new positions, and market analysis to an outside consultant. Fox, Lawson & Associates. By out-sourcing the politics and perceived favoritism are significantly reduced.
The county started by having Fox Lawson conduct a review of the classification system. They then conducted a market survey to establish the paygrades. Using that as a base, supervisors submit classification requests to the personnel committee once a year. The board decides which to forward and if others should be included. Similarly, if a new position is created, the job specifications are sent to the consultant for classification. To this point, the board has accepted the recommendations of the consultant, without change. As a result, the perception of unfairness has greatly diminished and has isolated the administrators and commission from political pressure.
The county has also recently completed the second market survey which found that the county was lagging the market by about 8%. The commission has adopted a pay plan to address the market.
Members then asked several questions relating to the implementation of the personnel system, including moving through the range, hiring practices, the market survey, and the salary ranges for Cass County. Ms. Johnson responded to the particular question and emphasized the importance of defining personnel policies and out-sourcing classification issues to a non-local consultant.
After further discussion, it was the consensus of the members that the concept be explored and that Carla Kolling put together a proposal on the use of out-sourcing that includes process time lines.
Salary Administration Plan
Jana Thielges outlined a proposal for addressing the salary issue for the first year of the biennium. She recommended that all employees be given a minimum salary increase of $35; that all employees receive the difference between $35 and 2% of their salary based on merit; that salary ranges be increased by 2% and that the step system be maintained through the upcoming biennium. Although the legislation did not authorize probationary employees to receive the merit increase, it was recommended that those employees receive the merit increase in order to avoid employees currently on probation to be at a lower salary than those starting after July 1.
The members inquired whether employees that were on probation received unauthorized merit increases in the past. Jana informed the members that they had. Motion was made by Judge Simonson, seconded by Rita Hanneson, that the proposed salary administration plan as presented by Jana be adopted. The motion unanimously carried.
May 10, 1999 Letter from William Strutz to Chief Justice VandeWalle
Chair Miller drew member's attention to the May 10, 1999 letter from William Strutz to Chief Justice VandeWalle and explained that the board's responsibilities in the areas of identifying pay classification and developing job descriptions for the clerk of court and deputy positions are limited until such time as the Court Services Administration Committee identifies their job duties. The Chair outlined the other pending personnel issue being annual and sick leave. She explained that many elected clerks have no designated leave, therefore there would be no leave to transfer when they become state employees. She explained that when the county judges came into the state system, their secretaries brought with them their accumulated leave (up to 30 days), accumulated sick leave and their years of service working for the judiciary.
The members suggested inviting a clerk to be at future meetings when personnel issues relating to their coming into the state system are on the agenda. Staff will draft a letter to the President of the Clerk of Court Association inviting the attendance of one clerk at future meetings.
Keithe Nelson's June 9, 1999 Memo to Chief Justice VandeWalle
Carla Kolling explained that at the June 8, 1999 meeting of the Council of Presiding Judges, the Council authorized the transfer of one unallocated full-time employee position in the district court to a help desk position that is located in the supreme court but provides technical assistance to the supreme and district courts. She said that she is in the process of working with Kurt Schmidt in developing a job description for the position, that once the job analysis questionnaire is complete, it is her intent to send it to Robert Bjorklund and ask that he assign a paygrade to the position. She informed the members that Mr. Nelson is supportive of out-sourcing this position and requests the support of the board.
Motion was made by Rita Hanneson, seconded by Justice Maring to support the Presiding Judges decision and Carla's decision to out-source the paygrade identification. The motion unanimously carried.
Due to time limitations, the members withheld taking action on the revisions until the next meeting.
The members suggested inviting Robert Bjorklund to the next meeting to discuss out-sourcing, pay ranges, market analysis, paygrade identifications and other related issues.
The members requested Carla Kolling to put together a plan to conduct periodic reviews of paygrades and conduct market analysis. The plan should also include a career ladder series for certain positions and the development of a Career/Senior position for certain classifications.
The next meeting will be held in Jamestown.
The Meeting adjourned at 10:15 a.m.