Friday, March 8, 2002
Library objects to personnel review system
At the selectmen's meeting on February 26, Mary Cheever and Brooke Cragan of the board of trustees for the Gleason Library challenged the recently implemented policy under which all town employees will be reviewed. Of particular concern was the review form used to evaluate all town employees from librarians to firefighters. Also at issue was whether one department should be allowed to opt out of a policy devised to provide consistency across the range of town jobs.
Cheever expressed the trustees' disappointment that, "We've been told there'll be no raises for our employees" due to a refusal to fill out the evaluation forms sent out by the personnel board in the fall. Calling the new form "not motivating," Cheever referred to the library's past evaluation process, called "goal setting," and said, "We have a method that works. We have extremely motivated employees... We'd like to continue to use a process that has worked so well in the past, not an arbitrary system imposed with no review."
Cheever also criticized the merit system. Conceding, "We know you're trying to do the best thing...it's not an easy task," Cheever then added, "We don't think an employee of yours should be evaluating an employee of ours." Of special concern was a provision for the town administrator to review each department head, including the library director, as part of the evaluation.
Consistency and fairness sought
Improving the management of a burgeoning town government was the goal when the selectmen and personnel board set out two years ago to review salaries and develop personnel policies. The standardized form for evaluating town employees was a recent step intended to provide the consistency necessary for the town administrator to fairly assign merit increases to the most deserving employees. "We've worked very hard to put in place a system ...to establish some uniformity," said selectmen chair John Ballantine. Added selectman Doug Stevenson, "We're trying to achieve an objective, uniform review process... I think having one form is a good thing."
Cheever took issue with this. "You should strive to make sure people get reviewed, but not to the level of a general form." She then suggested a department head should be free to choose the evaluation method that works. "This policy takes away from the department head's authority." Cragan added, "We have a fundamental difference of opinion on this instrument [the form]" the results of which she predicted will be "everybody is outstanding."
Review process defended
Town administrator Madonna McKenzie responded to the charge that there had been no review process. "The library was invited several times to a review of the personnel document and no comments were received." The document sets out the process for evaluation. Cheever noted the document's nomenclature was confusing and "it was very difficult to get through." McKenzie said library review of the document and form would still be welcome, but, "If we let departments use their own forms, they could be anything." She suggested attaching the goal-setting evaluation, but said, "We still need the form."
Selectman Tim Hult summarized the conflict. "On the one hand the personnel board thinks it's important to have uniformity. On the other hand are the trustees who want to have control." He then suggested a temporary resolution: 1) the library will fill out the forms and staple on the goal-setting evaluations; 2) the selectmen will agree to put merit increases aside for now, as there are issues throughout the departments; 3) the town administrator will fill out her part of the review of the library director and pass the comments to the trustees; and 4) the library will review the evaluation form.
Noting that policies for evaluation are under continual review, Ballantine called for "dialogue and compromise." Said Cheever, "We're reassured by your words. We were led to believe this process was set in concrete."
Hult's recommendations will be brought to the library's board of trustees. Stevenson made one final suggestion: "Hold your noses and fill out the forms. Let's not make this issue balloon. While I respect your principles, I'm not sure this is worth going to the mat on if it means withholding raises."
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito