July 28, 1998

 

 

Honorable Frank J. Ochoa, Presiding Judge

Santa Barbara County Superior Court

1100 Anacapa Street

P.O. Box 21107

Santa Barbara, CA. 93121-1107

 

 

County Administrator’s Response to Findings and Recommendations in the 1997-98 Grand Jury Report on Civil Service

 

 

Dear Judge Ochoa:

 

The following is in response to the 1997-98 Grand Jury Report entitled "Civil Service." As there are several affected agencies who were to respond to this report, this office has provided a coordinated response from the County Administrator, the Civil Service Commission and the Personnel Department. The Chief Probation Officer will provide a response under separate cover. We appreciate the Grand Jury’s interest in the area of Civil Service.

 

1. Organizational Management

 

Finding 1. The court is responsible for annual performance reviews of the Chief Probation Officer.

 

Finding 2. No performance reviews have been done on the three Deputy Probation Officers for several years.

 

Recommendation 1. Assure that performance reports are prepared on the three Deputy `Probation Officers. (Finding 2)

 

Affected Agency: Chief Probation Officer (Finding 2, Recommendation 1)

 

Response: The Chief Probation Officer will be providing a separate response to Findings 1 and 2 and Recommendation 1.

 

Finding 3. No performance review has been done on the County Counsel for several years.

 

Recommendation 2. The Board of Supervisors should direct the County Administrator to conduct an Executive Management Performance Evaluation on the County Counsel and review the report for this appointed position. (Finding 3)

 

Affected Agency: Board of Supervisors (Finding 3, Recommendation 2)

 

Response: We respectfully disagree with this finding. The Board of Supervisors evaluated the County Counsel in April, 1998 during an Executive Session at which time he was reappointed for a four year term.

 

Finding 4. The Board of Supervisors have not been reviewing the performance reports completed on each of their appointees.

 

Recommendation 3. The Board of Supervisors should review all performance evaluations prepared by the County Administrator on appointed department heads.(Finding 4)

 

Affected agency: Board of Supervisors (Finding 4 and Recommendation 3)

 

Response: The County Administrator has conducted evaluations with the Fire Chief, Public Works Director, Parks Director and Job Training Network Director. The County Administrator has revised the form used to evaluate department heads to include how their performance relates to the County’s Strategic Plan, Five Management Strategies and specific management tools that are being implemented. This form is currently being tested with several executives and will be used with all appointed department heads in the next few months. The Board of Supervisors will continue to be involved in evaluating appointed department heads. The revised performance evaluation system should be implemented by September 30, 1998.

 

2. Performance Evaluation Concerns

 

Finding 5. There is no automated tracking in any of the departments including Personnel to alert (flag) management that an Employee Performance Report (EPR) is due.

 

Recommendation 4. The county should install a computerized tracking program which will flag all EPR due dates. (Finding 5)

 

Affected Agency: County Administrator (Finding 5, Recommendation 4)

 

Response: We respectfully disagree with this finding. Departments are notified every pay period that EPRs are due for their employees. Every pay period, the payroll clerk in each department receives a Department Action Notice (a report that is from the HRS/Payroll system) that lists various information about employees, including a listing of those employees who are due for a performance review. The performance evaluation ("flag") list is distributed twelve weeks before the evaluation is actually due thereby allowing supervisors adequate time to complete the evaluation.

 

Finding 8. It is not necessary for the completed EPR form to be reviewed and signed by the department head.

 

Recommendation 5. Department heads shall review all sub standard performance noted in EPRs before they are sent to Personnel for filing. (Finding 8)

 

Affected Agency: County Administrator (Finding 8, Recommendation 5)

 

Response: We agree with Finding 8 as there is no requirement that the department head review and sign EPR forms. Department heads are responsible for ensuring fair and accurate EPRs under Civil Service Rule 1503. All EPRs are processed under the authority of the department head and the signing parties (i.e. supervisors and managers) are acting as authorized agents of their department head.

 

In regards to Recommendation 5, department heads may or may not review sub-standard EPRs depending on the department, before they are sent to Personnel for filing. Some department heads have delegated the responsibility for reviewing EPRs to assistant department heads or management staff. The decision about who reviews EPRs is best left to each Department Head. As a point of information, the Personnel Department reviews all EPRs that are rated below satisfactory. If there are concerns about language, poor documentation etc., the department is contacted with suggestions or corrections.

 

Finding 7. The EPR form does not reflect the employee’s responsibility to organizational objectives, goals and budget criteria to which they should be working. The EPR form does not include an employee comment section.

 

Recommendation 6. Change the EPR form to reflect two things: the employee’s obligation in attaining the Strategic Planning, Budget and Goal Setting for each employee; and employee comments are included as part of the evaluation.[Finding 7].

 

Affected Agencies: County Administrator, Personnel (Finding 7, Recommendation 6)

 

Response: We partially agree with Finding 7. There is a section in the Employee Performance Report (EPR) for Work Objectives that we believe is the place where the employee’s responsibilities are made clear. This section can be used in a number of ways such as: providing the employee with specific feedback about what is expected of them in the next year, discussing the employee’s role in Department performance measures, discussing the employee’s role in assisting the Department in meeting its goals and objectives etc. We agree that the EPR form does not include an employee comment section however, employees have the ability to respond to or rebut an EPR and the rebuttal is filed in their personnel file under the Civil Service Rules.

 

Recommendation 6 requires further analysis by the County Administrator and the Personnel Department. First, not all employees are involved in the development of Strategic Planning efforts, Budget or Goal Setting and those employees that are involved are usually executives and managers. And although all employees have a role in helping the county to meet strategic plans and various goals, it is unclear whether the EPR is the most appropriate tool for communicating information about these endeavors. It does make sense to provide employees with specific information about the ways in which they contribute to the County’s Strategic Plan but the EPR may not be the best means to accomplish this communication. The recommendation about employee comments deserves further study as well. These issues will be studied in the next six months.

 

Finding 6. Department heads are not enforcing the requirement for annual performance evaluations as required by Civil Service Rule 15.

 

Recommendation 7. Revise the Executive Management Performance Evaluation form to assure department heads are enforcing the requirement for annual employee performance evaluations in their department. [Finding 6]

 

Affected Agency: County Administrator

 

Response: We respectfully disagree with Finding 6. As the Grand Jury may be aware, all departments have an annual performance measure about completing a certain percentage of the total number of employee performance evaluations within the required time period (annual, probationary etc.). Of twenty-one departments, twelve departments are reporting that they are completing 75% or greater of the total number of employee performance reviews within the required timeframes. Nine departments are not meeting their stated performance goals. Although there is clearly room for the County to improve, the finding as stated is not accurate.

 

In response to Recommendation 7, the County Administrator has revised the Executive Performance Appraisal Form (as stated in the response to Finding 4 and Recommendation 3). One of the sections in the revised form deals with Employee Development and a specific assessment area is for the Department completion rate for performance evaluations. This form and process will be implemented by September 30, 1998.

 

Finding 9. Not all departments conduct EPRs in a timely manner for all their employees.

 

Response: See response to Finding 6 and Recommendation 7. Last year the County Administrator’s budget included performance measures for EPRs which over time will resolve this concern.

 

Finding 10. When a new supervisor is assigned or there is a reorganization of a department, there is no requirement that revised performance expectations are discussed or that affected employees are informed of any new job performance standards.

Recommendation 8. Revise the Civil Service rules to assure that a change in employee status (such as a new job or new supervisor) ensures the supervisor and all affected employees meet to discuss new or modified job performance objectives. [Finding 10]

 

Affected Agency: Civil Service Commission (Finding 10, Recommendation 8)

 

Response: In response to Finding 10, there is no formal requirement that performance expectations be discussed when a new supervisor is assigned or there is a reorganization. It is sound and practical management to explain expectations to employees when there is a change in management. We believe that this type of communication does in fact occur on a regular basis.

 

Recommendation 8 will not be implemented. The Civil Service Commission discussed this recommendation and suggest that a rule revision is not necessary to accomplish this objective. The Commission believes that it is a management responsibility to communicate any changes in job duties or performance objectives and that in general managers are communicating changes in performance objectives. The Civil Service Rules are designed to guide managers and employees about various obligations and rights, however it is almost impossible to codify good management practices.

 

3. Training

 

Finding 11. There is no centralized training for supervisors on how to consistently complete the Employee Performance Reports countywide.

 

Recommendation 10. The Organizational Effectiveness and Training Office or the Personnel Department should develop and present mandatory classes for all supervisors responsible for completing Employee Performance Reports. (Finding 11)

 

Affected agency: County Administrator (Finding 11, Recommendation 10)

 

Response: The County Administrator has responded to the Grand Jury report on Employee Training in Santa Barbara County. As that report states, a Countywide Training Program is being established and one of the course offerings will be training on performance management for supervisors and managers. Initial course offerings will begin in late fall, 1998.

 

Finding 12. Personnel are being promoted to supervisory positions without adequate supervisory training.

 

Recommendation 11. The Organizational Effectiveness and Training Office or Personnel Department should develop and present a course on supervisory techniques. This course should be mandatory for new supervisors within 60 days of their promotion. (Finding 12)

 

Affected Agency: County Administrator (Finding 12, Recommendation 11)

 

Response: In response to Finding 12, some employees being promoted for the first time may have received prior training in supervisory skills and some may not have. Many new supervisors are given that type of training after they are promoted by their departments. The Employee University will have a formal training program for new supervisors. If resources are available, employees who are not yet supervisors may be enrolled in these courses.

 

In response to Recommendation 11, the County Administrator has responded to the Grand Jury’s Report on Training and the County is in the process of establishing an Employee University which will include supervisory training. The Governing Council of the Employee University has yet to determine which courses will be mandatory although we agree that supervisory techniques are critical to the success of new supervisors.

4. Criteria such as CS rules & procedure changes

 

Finding 13. Lacking Civil Service guidelines, grievances are not routed past the department head for resolution.

 

Recommendation 12. Include a rule in the Civil Service manual which permits the department head to resolve any grievances subject to board approval or appeal. (Finding 13)

 

Affected Agencies:County Administrator, Board of Supervisors.

 

Response: The statement in Finding 13 is not correct. We believe there may be some confusion on the part of the Grand Jury. A grievance and the grievance process is defined in each of the Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) that the County has with the various Recognized Employee Organizations. Generally speaking, a grievance is defined as a claim made by an employee or a group of employees about an alleged violation of a County rule, policy, regulation etc. with the exception of those matters that are covered by the Civil Service Rules in which case the Civil Service Commission shall handle those claims according to the Civil Service Rules. There are also exceptions for complaints regarding Affirmative Action, Worker’s Compensation etc. which have separate complaint procedures as well. The grievance process allows for various stages of resolution from the first line supervisor to managers and to the

 

In response to Recommendation 12, the grievance process is governed by the MOUs between the County and its employee organizations, not by the Civil Service Rules. The current MOUs provide for the department head to resolve grievances unless appealed to the County Administrator or to an arbitrator.

Finding 14. There is no penalty for supervisors ignoring the EPR process.

 

Recommendation 13. Include a rule which penalizes any supervisor who does not write EPRs in a timely manner. (Finding 14)

 

Affected agencies: County Administrator, Board of Supervisors. (Finding 14,

Recommendation 13)

 

Response: We do not agree with Finding 14. If a supervisor is delinquent on his or her employee evaluations, a manager discusses this problem on the evaluation of the supervisor.

 

In response to Recommendation 13, we respectfully disagree with such a punitive approach about one aspect of the supervisors’ responsibilities. Chronic tardiness in completing this important task must be noted when the supervisor is evaluated, and if it does not improve must be considered grounds for removing the employee from a supervisory role. Similarly, if an entire department fails to complete this task, this ought to be reflected in the County Administrator’s evaluation of the department head. We disagree with the idea of identifying one aspect of a supervisors’ responsibilities which calls for disciplinary action. Supervisors should be evaluated on their total performance as a supervisor and on all aspects of their responsibilities. In addition, the Civil Service Rules should allow for evaluation, judgment and discretion on the part of the Civil Service Commission rather than a codification of absolute consequences for particular actions.

 

Finding 15. The rules for dismissal of employees are not concise.

 

Recommendation 14. Clarify those sections of Civil Service rules which provide for employee termination. (Finding 15)

 

Affected Agencies:County Administrator, Civil Service Commission (Finding 15, Recommendation 14)

 

Response:We respectfully disagree with this finding and recommendation. The rules for dismissal are in Civil Service Rule Twelve which describes sixteen general causes for disciplinary action and the requirements for noticing employees about disciplinary action. We believe the rules are clearly written and serve their purpose well. Absent specific problem identification or recommendations, we do not think any revisions are warranted.

Finding 16. When settlements are reached through the appeal process, there is no evidence that feedback from Civil Service Commission is provided to correct management policy, or rules and regulations.

 

Recommendation 15. On every settlement of a termination appeal, the Civil Service Committee must provide feedback to the County Administrator to preclude repetition. (Finding 16)

 

Affected Agency: Civil Service Commission (Finding 16, Recommendation 15)

 

Response: We respectfully disagree with Finding 16. In cases where the parties (the employee, the Department, the Board of Supervisors and their attorneys) agree to resolve a designated action through a settlement agreement, the Civil Service Commission does not and should not have a role since they are not a party to the action. The Civil Service Commission has, however, had occasion to give formal and important feedback to particular departments in the County on their personnel practices. The Commission may also initiate an investigation into a department’s personnel practices if they believe it is warranted.

 

The Civil Service Commission respectfully disagrees with Recommendation 15. The Commission does not get involved in settlements between the parties and is only informed that a settlement has been reached. In many cases, settlement is reached prior to the Commission taking any testimony in the matter. The Board of Supervisors approves all settlements and the Board and the County Administrator are advised of the terms of the settlement and the reason for it. No further action is necessary.

 

Finding 17. A major overhaul of the Civil Service Rules is urgently required as supported in the Civil Service Reform package.

 

Recommendation 16. Act on the changes to the Civil Service rules contained in the Civil Service Reform package at the earliest possible time. (Finding 17)

 

Affected Agencies:County Administrator and Civil Service Commission (Finding 17, Recommendation 16)

 

Response: In response to Finding 17, we are assuming you are referring to the County executives proposals regarding Civil Service reform. The Civil Service Reform package identified several areas of improvement however, it did not recommend a major overhaul of the Civil Service Rules. We are not certain that a major overhaul is necessary, nor are we certain that there is any urgency for such an effort.

 

In response to Recommendation 16, the Civil Service Commission is in the process of enacting several rule changes that were included in the Civil Service Reform package. The Commission has selected specific rules to revise and based on various input and testimony from management and the Employee Associations, has decided not to implement all of the recommendations in the Civil Service Reform package.

 

I wish to thank the 1997-98 Grand Jury for their hard work and for the opportunity to respond to this Grand Jury report.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Michael F. Brown

County Administrator

 

c: Honorable Gail Marshall, Chair

and Members of the Board of Supervisors

Tim Putz, Foreman, 1997-98 Grand Jury

Gary Monson, Foreman, 1998-99 Grand Jury

Ann Goodrich, Personnel Director

Civil Service Commission