Friday, October 13, 2006
BOH and Personnel Board at odds over staffing request
What began as a difference of opinion between the Board of Health (BOH) and the Personnel Board became a heated discussion that eventually ended without resolution at the October 3 BOH meeting. The board had asked members of the Board of Selectmen and the Personnel Board to its meeting to try to resolve their differences so the BOH can obtain approval for the additional administrative hours that they first requested 10 months ago.
BOH seeks four more hours
for administrative assistant
At issue was a BOH request in December, 2005 for four additional hours per week for its administrative assistant Mary de Alderete, who is currently paid for 15 hours per week. The board asked for more hours to help with a growing workload that includes land-use permitting, new state-mandated emergency preparedness activities and the need for more general office support.
over Personnel Board application
While BOH Chair Martha Bedrosian said she and BOH Agent Linda Fantasia presented the request in person at a December 15 Personnel Board meeting, Personnel Board Chair Doris Jaferian recalls the BOH visit as more of a "heads up." Since that time, the parties have had what Jaferian called "an unfortunate series of misunderstandings," right up to September, 2006 when the Personnel Board announced new procedures for requesting increased hours. Within two weeks, the Board of Health received a letter from Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie requesting detailed information justifying the increased hours.
During a discussion about why the BOH had not heard from the Personnel Board regarding their request for about six months, it was explained per personnel policy memo, "If you don't hear you're approved, then you're denied."
"So no news is bad news, not good news," Bedrosian quipped.
Selectman Doug Stevenson apologized for the lack of clarity in the past regarding personnel policies and procedures, but said that the Personnel Board has been working recently on clarifying the process.
The BOH asked the Personnel Board to allow their request to proceed based on the policy that was in place when the BOH first asked for the hours, not the policy that was established ten months later. "It was very important to the Board of Health to get those hours," said BOH member Bill Risso. Others said that the recent request by the Town Administrator for new information was "over the top" and "almost punitive."
Bedrosian frequently tried to get an answer to why several town boards requested and received approval for increasing administrative hours while the Board of Health received no response. "What did we not do?" she asked. The board felt they had provided all the requested information. The BOH offered to cover the additional four hours out of the BOH 53E 1/2 account, a holding account for fees received for BOH permitting, rather than request an increase in the department's allocation from the general budget.
What happens next?
The next step for the two boards was not specified at the end of the discussion. "It's unclear whether we'll be on the agenda for the next Personnel Board meeting," said Bedrosian. "We still don't know if our initial request will be considered under the old policy, or whether we have to meet the criteria of the new policy implemented September 25."
© 2006 The