Sunday, July 20, 2008

Interim is often part of the job in Vallejo

As Vallejo has reached the point of bankruptcy and its workforce is whittled away, city employees are often replaced provisionally, and only when deemed necessary.

Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said there are "absolutely" more city management positions staffed with fill-in personnel during this time of "fiscal uncertainty." Some of that staff has moved up from existing positions; others are being hired from the outside.

Filling posts temporarily while waiting for the recruitment process to kick in has also generally become more common since personnel officials are fewer, Whittom said.

"If it takes longer to fill a position, then hiring a part-time person to get the work done in the interim is an important way to continue to provide services for the community," Whittom said.

Whittom added the caveat that "the use of temporary and part-time employees is something the city has employed over many years, for a variety of reasons."

"Having people in an interim position is not a good long-term situation and in the best interest of stability, moving forward, it would be important for us to try and make those positions more permanent," Councilman Tom Bartee said. "Having interim positions gives you a certain amount of flexibility in a changing environment, which is how I would describe where we are right now as a city."

City Manager Joseph Tanner, who ultimately runs the city's day-to-day business declined to Advertisementcomment.

Current Vallejo temporary leadership staffing includes: Interim Fire Chief Russell Sherman, Acting Human Resources Director Sandy Salerno, Interim Development Services Director Bob Adams, Acting City Clerk Mary Ellsworth, Acting Assistant Fire Chief Richard MacKenzie, Acting Police Lt. Don Hendershot and Public Information Officer JoAnn West

City Councilwoman Erin Hannigan, a State Farm insurance executive, said temporary filling of positions is common in the business world.

"I hire temps in my own business periodically, depending on our workload," Hannigan said. "Ideally, I think we want to hire the right position for the right job. Sometimes, that person might be the right person for the job right now. I would hope that we come to some level of stability and would be hiring employees."

Hannigan said a "very real possibility that we fall below the staffing level that we have right now at the (Vallejo Police Department) and the fire department" also presents a problem. Temporarily filling empty positions is a necessity, said Councilwoman Joanne Schivley.

"The bad thing is (temporary personnel) salary is probably higher," Schivley said. "But we're only going to be paying for them while they're here; we're not going to be paying for them when they retire."

Mayor Osby Davis said the key to working with permanent, interim and temporary city employees is allowing them to have a stake in their roles.

"It's my belief that you don't get ownership (just) by having people in a position for the past 10, 20 years," Davis said. "I don't care whether you're a union employee or a contract employee, you empower them to make decisions about how they provide services to the public. Whether you are union or contract is incidental."

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