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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Monday, 24, 2017 in an all day budget workshop city council had the opportunity to review and ask questions of about half of the city’s departmental budgets. The remaining departmental budgets will be reviewed on Friday, April 28, 2017. If you would like to see the proposed Glendale departmental budget please use this link: Budget Ap 24 2017 POWERPOINT .

Generally this year’s departmental budgets are very clean. By that I mean that whatever budget increases were proposed could be justified. The biggest drivers of this year’s departmental budgets can be attributed to several factors: across the board employees received a 2.5% increase in pay and in almost every budget fire & liability insurance costs were up. For the first time some departments received a new line item for technology charges and those who were already charged for technology saw increases in this charge…in some instances… doubled.

Keep in mind no department’s budget ever starts at zero. Presently the city does not use zero-based budgeting. I have introduced it as a Council Item of Special Interest. Last year’s budget number for each department is the starting point upon which each department’s budget is based and each department’s budget is increased, decreased or remains static beyond last year’s number.

Over the past two fiscal years the departments council reviewed on Monday have seen increases in FY 2016-17 and FY 2017-18 totaling:

  • City Attorney                              14.96%
  • Police Services                            12.47%
  • Development Services                 23.90%
  • City Auditor                                13.86%
  • City Court                                  20.09%
  • Fire Department                           6.61%
  • Human Resources/Risk Mgmt      10.72%
  • Community Services                   -1.89%

The only department in this review to see a modest decrease in its budget is Community Services with a 1.89% decrease. This department is almost completely dependent on grants, especially federal grants like the Community Development Block Grant (this funds many of the services and programs offered to the poor and economically disadvantaged). So as these grants diminish slightly, so, too, does its budget.  This department has been advised by the federal Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) to prepare for as much as a 20% decrease in certain federal grants.

I have taken the liberty of noting some of the changes to various departmental budgets. In the City Attorney’s office there is the addition of an assistant city prosecutor. The addition of this full time employee (FTE) is to meet the increased demands of caseloads within the city’s court. The office has a line item of $200,000 for the use of outside attorneys (consultants). This amount increased from the $135,000 granted in last year’s budget.

In Police Services the newly appointed Police Chief Richard St. John is working aggressively to fill all authorized patrol positions. Currently there are only 8 unfilled authorized and funded patrol positions. That is the lowest number I have seen in years. Through attrition during each year the city loses about 20 officers. The focus for GPD this coming year will be on speeding enforcement. It is also the Chief’s goal to reduce beat sizes within the city as soon as practicable.

Development Services includes 3 departments – building safety, code compliance and planning. The number of FTEs in Code Compliance will increase by 2.5. Despite the implementation of new strategies in the use of employees’ time and effort within Code, it is still not performing as well as hoped. I think it is time for a city council workshop to do an in depth review of code. The fact that Saturdays are not covered optimally is a cause for concern as yard sales, as an example, can only be covered on weekends. I am concerned that with development picking up considerably within the city (there are more than 8 residential development projects in the pipeline at this time) and as the economy continues to improve, the planning department does not have enough manpower to perform in a timely and effective manner.

The City Auditor department, despite its increase in funding over the past two fiscal years, seems to be static in terms of productivity and the number of audits performed annually.

In the City Court its latest initiative, the Mental Health Court, has grown dramatically. Even though our City Court has met mandated Arizona Supreme Court times for closing cases, it is disappointing to see the resolution of traffic cases within 60 days drop from 93% to an 80% rate.

Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison reported on the success of the pilot project of employing Low Acuity (LA) vehicles and 2 man staffs to respond to ordinary, non critical emergency medical calls. This initiative is long overdue. Instead of sending big trucks (with the resultant O&M costs) Glendale is using

LA vehicles to answer non-critical medical calls freeing up fire resources and avoiding the tremendous costs associated with sending ladder trucks. They should be all over the city since 80% of the calls answered by the Fire Department are medical emergency calls…but they are not.

 These Low Acuity, two man units are not part of the Automatic Aid system for as it states in Section 9.1 of the Automatic Aid agreement, “System participants recognize the importance of service delivery and personnel safety issues. The minimum daily staffing level for engines and ladders shall be four members. Henceforth this will be referred to as full staffing.”

I would love to see the fire department develop 4 man, High Acuity vehicles to respond to critical, emergencies especially when one sees the statistics. In 2017, the fire department responded to 1,220 fire related calls – everything from a structure fire to a BBQ grill fire. During the same year it answered 29,900 advanced life support or basic life support medical calls.

Another alarming statistic is this. Under the Automatic Aid Agreement on 4,300 occasions another city’s fire department responded to an emergency call in Glendale. That’s great, isn’t it? You bet it is. The closest fire unit is responding and perhaps saving your life or the life of a loved one. But there is a flip side to that coin. Glendale responded to 6,600 emergency calls in other cities, like Phoenix or Peoria. These 6,600 calls were outside of Glendale. There is an imbalance that is costing you money. In essence, Glendale taxpayers subsidize emergency services for other cities. Of the 31,120 calls to which Glendale fire responded in 2017, 7% were outside of Glendale. I believe that firefighters must answer the call in or out of Glendale but I also believe that it is time that Glendale should be reimbursed for any calls above parity. Do you think Glendale should subsidize the 2,300 calls answered in Phoenix or Peoria?

Interim Director of Community Services, Elaine Adamczyk, was an impressive presenter of her department’s budget. As an Interim Director she had an amazing grasp of all facets of her department. This is a department that saw a 1.89% decrease over two years. That is understandable. This department is almost entirely composed of grant funds such as the federal Community Development Block Fund (CDBG). If grants dry up or diminish in size, this budget reflects those changes. Ms. Adamczyk advised city council that the federal Housing and Urban Development Department has advised all grantees that the amount of grant funds could be reduced by as much as 20%.

The last department of the day to present its budget was Human Resources & Risk Management. Its responsibilities are many and varied. Perhaps one of the most critical areas for the organization is its process for hiring new employees or filling vacant positions. Many believe the process takes far too long. If a department head has done a lot of preparation work it is possible to fill a vacancy or new hire within 60 days. Often it takes much longer than that. If a new employee or vacancy were to be filled in the private sector, it can often be accomplished within a matter of a few weeks because that position often has a direct effect on a company’s profitability or lack thereof.

On Friday’s, April 28, 2017, all day budget session, department budgets to be reviewed will be Public Facilities & Events, Economic Development, Public Affairs, Mayor& Council, Innovation & Technology, City Manager’s Office, City Clerk, Water Services and Public Works.

If you have Cox Cable, you can watch the session live on Channel 11 beginning at 9 AM. You can also watch it live online by going to www.glendaleaz.com then clicking on Channel 11 TV in the left column, then clicking again on Watch Channel 11 Live on the left column.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               


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On the November 26, 2013 City Council meeting agenda was Item 23, an ordinance revising employee unclassified and classified positions as well as a revision of Human Resources Policies 201, 513 and 514. It was an item that council tabled and directed to be brought to a workshop — as well they should have.

As Councilmember Martinez stated there had been no review or discussion of this item prior to its appearance as an ordinance that night. City Manager Brenda Fischer took full responsibility for not bringing it to council prior to the vote. She should have. This ordinance, if approved, will be a blatant and naked accrual of more power to the City Manager and a diminishment of employee rights. Instead of former City Manager Ed Beasley’s “iron fist” we now have current City Manager Brenda Fischer’s “velvet glove.”

If I were a city employee I would be concerned. Currently the “at-will” employees are:

  •  City Manager                        1
  •  City Clerk                             1
  •  City Attorney                        1
  •  City Judge                            1
  •  Assistant City Judges             5 estimated

Under the proposal add:

  • Assistant and Deputy City Manager level positions
  • All department Director/Assistant Department Director level positions
  • All employees, exempt and non-exempt, assigned to positions in the legal department (includes City Attorney’s office and Prosecutor’s office);                            
  •  assigned to positions in the City Clerk’s office;                                        
  •  assigned to positions in the Mayor’s and City Council offices;
  •  and all classified employees in their introductory or probationary period of employment.

Under the current system reflected in the FY 2013 budget there are approximately 9 positions (estimate of number of assistant city judges is 5) that are unclassified and are considered as at-will. Under the proposed “velvet glove” system the number grows to approximately 120 positions. That number does not include “all classified employees in their introductory or probationary period of employment.” My math can be shaky but it appears to be a 1,000% increase planned in the number of at-will employees and that does not include probationary employees.

What are the differences between classified and unclassified employees? The major distinction is that unclassified employees have no right of appeal or right of grievance should they be fired. There does not have to be a “cause” to terminate. Consider them to be contract employees. There is no permanence or stability associated with the job. They are salaried employees who earn no overtime pay. There is no annual merit or “step” increase. Rather increases are based upon performance and productivity.

Retirement “vesting” and benefits can be different between the two systems. Unclassified employees can usually vest in retirement immediately while there is a waiting period for classified employees.

A classified job offers an individual job security and stability. Security at work has been demonstrated to improve and to enhance the individual’s performance. In the private sector companies that offer permanent jobs understand the need of promoting higher levels of job satisfaction to improve workforce performance. A classified employee will generally receive more employment benefits and bonuses like health insurance, pay raises and holiday pay.

There is no right or wrong position on these job classifications. Younger, more mobile workers seem to prefer at will employment while older persons are more comfortable with the security of job stability.

However, this new proposal raises a myriad of questions and concerns:

What about the issue of subjectivity? What if a department head has an assistant department head that does terrific work but their personalities clash? There exists the potential for abuse.

What about public safety? Do department heads and assistant department heads in police and fire become unclassified? If so the estimated number of 120 will grow substantially.

What about those employees currently in their introductory or probationary phases? Did those that already accepted employment from the city choose stability or mobility? If it was stability did they unwittingly forego another opportunity at another city assuming that once they passed their current probation they would have a stable job? In this new proposal once they finish probation after January 2, 2014 do they become at-will, unclassified? If so, over time, every employee will become unclassified. The proposed ordinance specifically states, “Legislative note: The expansion of the unclassified service to include employees hired and or promoted on or after January 2, 2014.”

The ordinance also states, “Unclassified employees are entitled to all regular benefits and leaves unless otherwise provided in the human resources policies and procedures.” How long will it be until unclassified employees see revisions to HR policies and procedures?

Then there is the description of classified service within the ordinance, “The objective of this service is to provide public and management services covered by a fair and nonpolitical system of personnel management for the City of Glendale.” Those seem to be desired outcomes in municipal government. So why the proposed change? It goes on to say, “The unclassified service is made up of employees in positions where administrative necessity dictates that the position be more responsive and accountable to city policy.” Is the unclassified system inherently more subjective and political? Yes.

The City Charter under Article III, Section 3, (3) states the City Manager has the authority to “appoint, and when deemed necessary for the good of the service, lay-off, suspend, transfer, demote or remove all department heads, officers and employees of the City subject to such merit system regulations as the Council may adopt.” However, only classified employees are subject to the merit system and even if the City Manager wished to get rid of a classified person there are protections in place that must demonstrate cause. The council may make all the adjustments it wants to the merit system but they will only apply to classified employees whose numbers in this proposed scenario seem to diminish over time.

Another sentence has been added in this section, “The City Manager delegates the Human Resources & Risk Management Executive Director as the decision making authority with regard to the entire recruitment and selection process.” It is worded carefully for it appears that the HR Director can select candidates for positions but the ultimate hiring and firing will be done by the City Manager.

Why was this proposed? I’ve been told by sources that it was adopted by the City Manager after she had to appear before the Personnel Board in the matter of the Don Bolton termination. A different source suggested Mayor Weiers’ love of all legislative practices and procedures (this model is used by the state legislature) drove this initiative. Weiers has tried to have several state legislative practices adopted but what works at the state level does not always work well at a local level.

What justification is offered by either the City Manager and/or the HR Executive Director for a major change in personnel classification? None — apparently.  In the City Council Report under Purpose and Recommended Action the proposed action is described but its purpose is not.

Why the reluctance to offer the purpose of such a major change? We are certain to hear that this proposed system offers flexibility in a changed work environment. Sounds like double-speak, doesn’t it? Make no mistake. This scheme centralizes power in the City Manager’s office. As elected officials leave so, too, will their staff under this proposed system. It can get really expensive in short order.

It was extremely prudent of council to table this proposal for future discussion at a workshop. The questions are many:

* Why is this major policy change necessary? And do not accept the answer of flexibility.

* Exactly how many employees out of the 1,000 plus will become subject to this policy?

* Will it apply to all new employees throughout the organization after January 2, 2014? From that date forward, once they have finished probation, will they be unclassified?

* How does such a policy change affect future budgets? What is the anticipated cost of moving to such a system? Add 20% to any staff estimate, if they provide one.

* Will department heads and assistant department heads in public safety become unclassified? If not, why not?

* Is the City Auditor and her department employees unclassified? If not, why not?

* Who will have the ultimate authority for hiring and firing unclassified employees?

* And most importantly — What practices will be implemented immediately and prior to a council vote to prevent any potential abuses including that created by subjectivity?


© Joyce Clark, 2013

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to :http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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