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Changes coming to civil service board
Discrepancies will be addressed
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Forsyth County News

 

Forsyth County is working to better define how its civil service board operates.

The changes are aimed at fixing several discrepancies between the civil service handbook and what's written in the county-specific state law.

Some other additions, deletions and changes have also been proposed to bring the board more in line with what it is already doing.

"[We] need to do a better job to make sure that whatever regulations we're handing them are square with the local law," County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

Not all the rules in the handbook that the civil service board uses have been sent on by the county commission for state approval.

Also, Jarrard said several of the rules need to be updated, since they date to the late 1970s.

The civil service board reviews appeals of disciplinary measures or firings of qualifying county employees.

At a Tuesday work session, county commissioners were tasked with setting the rules straight.

From their recommendations, staff will return with a draft.

After the commission approves a preliminary set of rules, the matter will be aired in public hearings.

Meeting compensation was one of the discrepancies discussed.

Several years ago, the commission approved a rate of $100 per meeting. That change was noted in the handbook but not state law, which provides for $25 per meeting for up to two meetings per month.

Tuesday, the commission decided to set the rate at the handbook designation, $100 per meeting.

Commissioner Patrick Bell said the job is "a lot to ask our citizens" who take time off work to lend their service to the county.

The civil service board clerk, Charity Clark, said the panel typically hears about 10 to 12 cases per year, which can each last up to 10 days.

Clark was reappointed as clerk for the civil service board. To avoid conflicts of interest, however, she will be removed from her job as clerk to the ethics board.

Commissioners also sought to clean up discrepancies in the rules for timelines of civil service employee hearings.

"We've basically doubled up the time frame from 45 days to end to 90, and quite frankly, it's going a little longer than that with the continuances," Jarrard said.

"We need to take the local law and shape it into practical reality of how this process works."

While revising the rules, the commission also hopes to streamline the hearing process.

One new provision calls for the county to not use attorney representation unless the appellant chooses to.

"This will really get back to the basics of what a civil service hearing is about," said Pat Carson, Forsyth County director of personnel services.

Also, in the interest of time, the clerk will be able to grant continuances without the full board's consent.

To clarify the decision process under the open meetings act, the rules will clearly state that board deliberations can occur in a closed meeting, but decisions and votes must take place in open session.

Carson said she discovered the local state law and handbook rules didn't match up while working on some revisions.

At the time, the civil service board was handling the appeal of former planning director Jeff Chance.

"There was an intentional decision not to bring them forward and have this very meeting in the middle of a fairly high-profile civil service matter last year," Jarrard said.

"We have delayed so this will look as benign as it is. We're not trying to do anything here except be a janitor."