The Santa Barbara County Personnel Department, which is under the direction of the County Administrator, has an unique and important function within the County, for it exists to serve the other County departments, not the public directly. As a means to this end, the Personnel Department has a staff of twenty-five and a budget of approximately $1.9 million for the 1994-95 fiscal year. The responsibilities of the Personnel Department are varied and far-reaching. They include labor contract negotiations, administering employment and retirement benefits, and County employment recruitment and testing, among many others. The time constraints placed upon a single Grand Jury prevent an investigation of all the aspects of the Personnel Department's responsibilities. Based upon a previous Grand Jury's recommendation and comments and statements made by other departments about the Personnel Department, the Grand Jury decided to investigate several specific issues:
* The general and overall response of the Personnel Department in its interaction with its client departments
* The job classification system currently used by the Personnel Department to track and manage the thousands of employment positions
* Open and promotional testing for employment as it is handled by the Personnel Department
* The hiring process, including how it is determined and tracked by the Personnel Department, as well as how it relates to affirmative action goals.
The objective of the Grand Jury was to ascertain how effectively the Personnel Department is serving its client departments with respect to the above mentioned issues.
The Grand Jury interviewed the Personnel Department Director and Deputy Director, members of the Board of Supervisors, various department heads, two Deputy County Administrators, the County Affirmative Action Officer, and members of the Civil Service Commission. Several of these people met with the Grand Jury numerous times. The Grand Jury also reviewed data provided by the Personnel Department on, but not limited to, entry-level and promotional testing, job classification procedures, proposed job classifications, actual job classifications, listings of job classes, affirmative action data collected by the Personnel Department, and other analyses as requested. The Grand Jury also reviewed the job responsibilities of the employees within the Personnel Department.
The Grand Jury found an outward attitude of cooperation by the Personnel Department, but received conflicting and contradictory information and testimony. The Grand Jury found it difficult to obtain accurate and complete answers to its inquiries. There was significant lag time between requests for information from the Personnel Department by the Grand Jury and the receipt of such information.
A service department such as the Personnel Department functions best with a positive customer attitude toward the other departments it serves. The Grand Jury saw little evidence of this, and received testimony that this positive attitude was lacking.
The Grand Jury was informed by many department heads that complaints or requests addressed to the Personnel Department, both written and oral, remained unanswered or low on various priority lists for long lengths of time. For example, a County employee submitted in writing three requests for a review and/or correction of the employee's service date over a ten month period without the Personnel Department's agreeing to address it. Another example, given by a department head who said several messages were left for the Personnel Director and none of the calls were returned. The Grand Jury also frequently left messages on voice mail to which responses were extremely delayed or not received at all. These examples are symptomatic of a larger communication problem that exists.
The Personnel Department is not a client-friendly office. Various testimony given to the Grand Jury by some department heads described the Personnel Department as "confrontational" and that its problem is "beyond a lack of resources" and more of an "attitudinal problem." A Personnel Department receptionist exhibited an uncooperative attitude toward the Grand Jury on several visits to the Personnel Department.
There were relatively few employees observed working in the Personnel Department on many random visits during normal business hours. As a result, the Grand Jury tried to ascertain the proportion of time spent by the Personnel Department on various functions. The Personnel Department testified that time accounting was done in its department, but meaningful data on time requirements for various functions of the Department were not available.
The Personnel Department has had reductions in staff and budget over the last several years, but their current budget in dollars for the 1994-95 fiscal year is virtually the same as their 1991-92 budget. The Department has had a loss of four FTE (full time equivalents) in its staff during this same four year period of time, but has also reduced its responsibilities, as is discussed further in this report. Though this staff reduction is a significant number, it would not appear
to justify the extent to which the Personnel Department seems to use budget cuts as the reason for its performance reductions.
The Grand Jury investigated the job classification system within Santa Barbara County. The Personnel Department is responsible for creating, tracking, and maintaining the hundreds of County job classifications. The Grand Jury noted the professional and thorough forms, flowcharts, and written procedures regarding job classifications developed by the Personnel Department, but the Grand Jury did not observe the use of these impressive tools to their full potential.
The Grand Jury was unable to determine exactly how many job classifications exist within the County. On two different submissions, the Grand Jury was provided with a list from the Personnel Department with different figures for the number of job classifications within the County - 644 at one time and 766 another, both which conflict with the 860 job classifications counted in the 1994-95 Final Budget. According to Personnel Department testimony, any "count" of the job classifications within the County is only a snapshot at a given point in time, as the number of job classifications is constantly changing and varying. However, the number of job classifications completed, revised, and/or deleted each year as provided by the Personnel Department contradicts this statement.
Based on Personnel Department data, there were 874 employees in the ten largest classes, and approximately 1,300, or one-third of the County's employees in the twenty largest classes. Based on the job classification figure provided in the 1994-95 budget, the remaining average is three positions per job classification. This indicates there is an excessive number of job classifications with very few or no employees within each job classification.
The Personnel Department created or revised an average of 60 job classifications during each of the last three years in addition to the 30 job classifications created from the "Becker and Bell Study", which was performed by an outside consultant.
There is no procedure for periodically reviewing and evaluating job classifications. The Personnel Department stated that it does not have the time to establish and follow a timetable to review job classifications.
The Grand Jury received testimony that, as a result of the lack of any structured review process, all reviews of job classifications are based upon immediate hirings or reorganizations, despite Civil Service Rules and good management practice requiring correct job classifications. For example, there are multiple job classifications for the very same job being performed. The basis for some multiple job classifications is merely the bargaining unit in which the employee is assigned upon hiring.
The head of the Civil Service Commission testified to the Grand Jury that he believed all classifications are kept reasonably current, and that the Civil Service Rules are based upon this premise. Yet several times throughout its investigation, the Grand Jury was provided with anecdotal evidence that many job classifications are incorrect, outdated, and do not reflect the work being performed. Both documentary and testimonial evidence has shown that many people are working in departments for extensive periods of time with incorrect job classifications. The Personnel Department could not provide the Grand Jury with how many job classifications are currently obsolete nor how many persons are currently working out of class within the County.
Departments can reprioritize their job requests with the Personnel Department and often do. The Personnel Department continually prioritizes its jobs in conjunction with the County Administrator as well. The Personnel Department necessarily performs this reprioritization to deal with immediate hirings and reorganization, but the department has no objective of staying current with job classifications overall.
Open Testing and Hiring
Testing is performed for a job when there are ten or more people applying for the position. If less than ten, no test is given. If a test is conducted, the Personnel Department provides the hiring department with a list of at least ten qualified applicants based upon their performance on the test. Applicants scoring sixty-nine percent or less are dropped from consideration. This list is referred to as a certified list, and is compiled according to this Rule of Ten.
The Rule of Ten evolved from a Rule of Three in the early 1980's, according to the Personnel Department. This was done for three reasons: one, to respond to the lack of good predictability on some tests; two, to meet affirmative action goals; and three, to provide more candidates to departments.
The latest affirmative action data (applicant flow data) provided by the Personnel Department to the Grand Jury was dated 1991-92, though other Departments had more recent applicant flow data. The Personnel Department made no attempt to monitor whether the Rule of Ten has been effective in helping to meet the County's affirmative action goals.
Personnel records show that over the past twenty-six months, hiring has been at an annual rate of 337 employees. The Personnel Department could not tell the Grand Jury with any certainty how many of these people were hired from existing lists (a list of passing applicants maybe retained for up to two years) and how many from new recruitments and classifications.
Personnel records show that there was an average of two certified lists required for each person hired. The Personnel Department testified there could be up to three or four certified lists for a particular hire. When hiring for a particular position, two or more certified lists are often necessary for several reasons: there is apparently no effective effort to screen for sufficient interest in County employment; no-shows are allowed to remain on a certified list up to three times before they are dropped; and, multiple certifications of the same list are issued when several departments are hiring for the same position. These policies create a significant waste of time in the Personnel Department as well as the hiring departments.
Recent recruiting data provided by the Personnel Department was confusing and created many more unanswered questions:
*There were 422 positions to be filled in 1994, but only 236 recruitments were opened in 1994
*The Personnel Department could not explain why there were apparently 186 positions left open from the prior year
*Of the 236 recruitments opened in 1994, 100 were departmental promotions and twelve were from other County departments
These facts could not be fully reconciled with the information provided by the Personnel Department that to fill those positions, plus the ones left over from 1993, they had to develop 253 new lists to add to the 726 lists that had already been certified.
The Personnel Department does not do promotional testing, although according to Civil Service Rules, promotional testing is the responsibility of the Personnel Department. Rule Six, Section 601 of the Santa Barbara County Civil Service Rules states that:
The Personnel Director shall schedule examinations to fill vacancies in the classified service or to provide eligible lists for classes of positions where vacancies are likely to occur, and shall prepare or acquire, announce, and conduct such examinations as provided in these Rules. An examination may be scheduled and conducted as a promotional examination, as an open examination, or as both. (emphasis added)
There is no oversight required of the Personnel Department over departments that do their own promotional testing. The Personnel Department subscribes to a question bank which they pay for on an annual basis. The departments develop their own questions with no use of the question bank nor any supervision of promotional tests by the Personnel Department. This could partially explain why complaints about promotional testing are occurring.
The Personnel Department's role in placing the 100 departmental promotions of 1994 was not clear when other testimony by its representatives indicated that it no longer prepared tests or lists for departmental promotions.
This data as provided would indicate that the Personnel Department has incomplete and/or conflicting data on promotional testing, or that it cannot account for its role in this process.
Testimony was that transferring all promotional testing to the departments was for the purpose of reducing the Personnel Department's workload, and furthermore, that it only affected four departments (Sheriff, Fire, Probation, and Social Services). The Grand Jury noted that more than four departments are affected, as it made an evaluation of complaints over promotional testing in the Public Works Department, as found in the 1994-95 Grand Jury Report, "Issues in Public Works". A significant problem was created in the Public Works Department this past year when the department did its own promotional testing in which sixteen people applied for Lead Maintenance Worker positions, and complaints of unfair promotions and unfair testing developed. This indicates that promotional testing clearly affects more than four departments.
Regardless of the actual number of departments that this transfer of responsibility of promotional testing affects, departments performing their own promotional tests can create an atmosphere of mistrust and favoritism between management and staff, as well as complaints about unfair testing practices.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
The Grand Jury believes the Personnel Department's role consists of the following: to provide potential employees to departments through qualification procedures; to recommend personnel policies; to implement personnel policies on a fair, even, and timely basis; to negotiate with County bargaining units; and to keep current, accurate, and appropriate records.
The Personnel Department shares with each department in the County a major role in employee morale and satisfaction. Among other factors, employee morale is affected by prompt responses to the employee's real or perceived problems; adherence to all County and Civil Service Rules; understandable policies; and a promotional testing system deemed fair and equitable, all of which the Personnel Department has a significant responsibility in maintaining.
There is no attempt to keep job classifications current, and the interviewing and hiring process is made more difficult by the way testing and the qualification for the certified lists is done, which sometimes requires three or four lists and up to fifteen potential interviewees per list for each open position.
There are several current policies of the Personnel Department which are in conflict with County Civil Service Rules, and no evidence of efforts to correct this situation were evident to the Grand Jury. This may be partially because the Civil Service Commission does not appear to be aware of these conflicts.
Significant testimony indicated that the Personnel Department was unresponsive or extremely late in responding to departmental officials and individual employees. Such a problem with communication can lead individuals to the strong perception of being deliberately ignored, whether or not this is the reality.
This caused the Grand Jury's own investigative efforts to be significantly frustrated and delayed because the Personnel Department provided data from their records much of which was conflicting, incomplete, and not current. The Personnel Department appeared to the Grand Jury to be undisciplined and disorganized.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
FINDING #1: The lack of the Personnel Department's involvement in the handling of promotional testing can and has created an atmosphere of mistrust and favoritism. Also, the County is currently out of compliance with present Civil Service Rules which state that the Personnel Department should be doing promotional testing.
RECOMMENDATION #1: The Board of Supervisors should require the Personnel Department and the Civil Service Commission to reconcile these contradictions regarding promotional testing. The Board should either, preferably, direct the Personnel Department to provide or coordinate all promotional testing, or alternatively, modify the Civil Service Rules.
FINDING #2: There is no specific procedure for reviewing existing job classifications, which permits an excessive number of obsolete and/or out-of-date descriptions to be in use. This is not acceptable personnel management and is in conflict with Civil Service Rules.
RECOMMENDATION #2: The Board of Supervisors should direct the County Administrator to require the Personnel Department to establish a proper system of review for job descriptions at a minimum of every four years.
FINDING #3: It appears that since 98% of job classifications have an average of three people per job classification and there is an unknown number of unused job classifications, the classification system has become over-complicated and overly specific.
RECOMMENDATION #3: The Board of Supervisors should direct the County Administrator to require the Personnel Department or an outside consultant to review and attempt to simplify the classification system.
FINDING #4: There is apparently poor construction and administration of certified hiring lists when no-shows and other factors require an average of two certified lists and up to three or four certified lists to fill a position.
RECOMMENDATION #4a: The Personnel Department should review testing and other qualifying procedures to determine why so many applicants are rejected, and modify the procedure.
RECOMMENDATION #4b: The Personnel Department should adopt a strict policy of dropping all no-shows from certified lists.
FINDING #5: The Personnel Department, while a service department whose purpose is to assist the other departments in developing and maintaining a productive staff, did not approach those departments as customers to be properly and pleasantly served.
RECOMMENDATION #5a: The Board of Supervisors should request the Auditor-Controller to conduct a complete management audit of the Personnel Department and recommend any new procedures deemed appropriate.
RECOMMENDATION #5b: The Personnel Department should adopt any and all appropriate recommendations made by the Auditor-Controller in his management audit.
FINDING #6: There is a problem receiving prompt, and in some cases, any, response from the Personnel Department when problems are raised or requests for information are submitted by phone, voice mail or in written correspondence to the Personnel Department by other departments or individual employees.
RECOMMENDATION #6: Phone messages and/or voice mail left with the Personnel Department should receive a same-day response. All complaints and/or requests should receive a prompt response and a date when the employee or department can expect a final reply.
AFFECTED AGENCIES (California Penal Code Section 933c requires that comments to Finding and Recommendations be made in writing within 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days.)
1. Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors - response
2. Santa Barbara County Administrator - response
3. Santa Barbara County Personnel Department - response
4. Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller - response
5. Santa Barbara County Civil Service Commission - response
Santa Barbara County Civil Service Rules
Letter from the Personnel Director to the Grand Jury regarding Classification Information, dated December 8, 1994
Letter from the Deputy Personnel Director to the Grand Jury regarding Response to Information Request of March 10, 1995, dated March 17, 1995
Letter from the Deputy Personnel Director to the Grand Jury regarding Response to Information Request of March 21, 1995, dated March 28, 1995
Letter from the Deputy Personnel Director to the Grand Jury regarding Turnover Statistics, dated April 27, 1995
Classification and Compensation Study of selected classes in the Data Processing Series, County of Santa Barbara, Final Report, April 1994, Becker and Bell, Inc.