SANTA BARBARA COUNTY GRAND JURY 1997-98

FINAL REPORT

CIVIL SERVICE REPORT

 

Released June 1, 1998

BACKGROUND

 

The 1997-98 Grand Jury, based on information received during interviews with department heads, sensed that a morale problem existed with county Civil Service employees. Similar Civil Service related problems were addressed by four totally different departments. The Grand Jury's Civil Service Committee was formed to determine if any corrective action could be taken.

 

Two weeks into the investigation the Grand Jury discovered that a Civil Service Reform program had been on going for over a year. The work on the reform package was being accomplished by the Civil Service Executive Association. In their September 1997 report to the Commission, they identified six areas and offered recommendations for improvements. These issues were titled:

 

 

This Grand Jury continued its investigation because of a number of omissions in the Executive Association’s Civil Service Reform package. This report will highlight those issues which the Grand Jury thinks can be expedited by the county and Civil Service Commission. The four areas to be addressed are:

 

1. Organizational management,

2. Employee performance evaluation concerns,

3. Training,

4. Criteria such as Civil Service Rules, and procedure changes.

.

The Grand Jury conducted interviews with the Civil Service Commissioners, department heads, union leaders and county employees, as well as reviewing the current Civil Service Rules, Employee Performance Guidelines and other documents obtained during the investigation.

1. Organizational Management

 

In reviewing the county organization, it was observed that some inconsistencies exist which may weaken the organization’s lines of authority. As illustrated by the organization chart (EXHIBIT 1) found in the Santa Barbara County Budget, the County Administrator

has direct line administrative responsibility to every appointed department head in the county, except the Probation Department. The dash line on the chart stipulates the

County Administrator has limited authority when dealing with the Probation Department, responsible only for budget and staffing levels.

 

However, Ordinance No.4217, the "County Administrator Ordinance," in Section 2-75 titled Employment Policies and Practices, the following sub paragraphs state that the county administrator shall:

 

(d) Appoint and remove the director of personnel, director of general services and the coordinator of emergency services.

 

(e) Appoint and remove the director of health care services, director of parks, director of planning and development, and director of public works, subject to approval of the board of supervisors.

 

(f) Except for the position of county counsel, and those department heads listed in (d) and (e), recommend to the board of supervisors a person for appointment to any board of supervisor appointed department head vacancy. Upon rejection, the county administrator shall then recommend a different person.

 

(h) The county administrator shall annually evaluate the performance of board appointed department heads, including goals and objectives, and submit such evaluations to the board of supervisors for use in the board’s review of the department head’s performance.

 

Consequently, according to the Organizational Chart and sub paragraph (h) all appointed department heads, except the chief probation officer, but including county counsel, report to the Board of Supervisors via the County Administrator.

 

The Grand Jury was informed that it has been several years since a performance evaluation has been conducted on the County Counsel, the Chief Probation Officer or any of the three Deputy Probation Officers. It was further noted that the Board of Supervisors is not reviewing the performance evaluations prepared by the County Administrator on their appointees. When the Grand Jury asked for clarification as to who should be conducting performance evaluations on these positions we received the following reply from the superior court (EXHIBIT 2) that,"...the evaluation of performance of the chief probation officer is a matter confided to the judges of the superior courts." The County Administrator’s reply was that a performance evaluation of the County Counsel had not been performed because sub paragraph (f) excludes the County Counsel from those he is required to evaluate.

 

FINDINGS

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Assure that performance reports are prepared on the three Deputy Probation Officers. [Finding 2]

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

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)

 

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)

 

2. Performance Evaluation Concerns

According to Civil Service Rules, the purpose of Employee Performance Reports (EPR) is to evaluate an employee’s performance on the basis of merit and job related factors. Each employee is to be rated by an immediate supervisor who has direct knowledge of the employee’s job performance. According to the Civil Service Rules (Rule 1325), a supervisor can be "...any employee, regardless of job description or title, having authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, layoff, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward or discipline other employees...." Department heads are to give a fair and accurate assessment of their job performance.

 

Historically this is done on an annual basis, using the EPR form. The county furnishes instructions or guidelines to assist the supervisor to go through this seven step evaluation

process. The need for "...two way communication that focuses on past job performance in relation to established standards and goals." is stated early in the booklet. The fact that the EPR can also support future actions (promotions, termination, etc.) is also included.

 

The Grand Jury, during its investigation, discovered numerous concerns throughout the county regarding the EPR process. The concerns noted were:

employees are not told if there is any change in how their job performance will be measured.

 

FINDINGS

 

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.

 

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

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.

 

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

 

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

 

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.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

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)

 

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)

 

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)

 

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. (Finding 6, Recommendation 7)

 

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)

 

3. Training

 

Two of the six presenters at the September 18, 1997 Civil Service Commission meeting on Civil Service Reform directly mentioned training during their presentation to the Civil Service Commission. These were general remarks such as "...the need for separate continuing education requirements... for management", and "use training and education opportunities ...to motivate employees."

 

During the interviews other comments were made about the need for management or supervisor training and employee training. One person commented on the "need for constant training on the EPR process." Another stated that union representatives were advising (training) supervisors on how to deal with personnel problems because the department management was not doing the job.

 

An example of the need for management training is in the area of Employee Performance Reports as describe earlier. Another example is that some managers stated that they can not fire an employee, yet Rule 12 of the Civil Service Rules spell out the steps for

 

disciplinary actions leading to dismissal. These examples illustrate situations that are not carried out to avoid dealing with unpleasant situations or only made worse by not

knowing how to approach and resolve the problem. Recent media news calls our attention to sexual harassment in the work place. How many in county management know the county's current policy on this subject or have had recent training to deal with this problem? Would the cost of training be offset by saving the cost of one law suit?

 

FINDINGS

 

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

 

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

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

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)

 

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)

 

4. Criteria such as CS rules & procedure changes

 

In the conduct of interviews with a number of employees, it became apparent that management felt that an employee could not be dismissed. Even though an employee has been dismissed the employee can appeal to the Civil Service Commission and have management’s action overruled. If the Commission accepts the appeal, a hearing officer is assigned to the case and expensive litigation ensues.

 

From the Grand Jury interviews with the Civil Service Commissioners we were informed that the Commission was neither pro management nor pro employee. It is the Civil Service Commission’s primary concern to assure that the taxpayers interests are protected.

Over the past 18 months the Civil Service Commission has handled 25 requests for appeal and 20 requests for investigations. Of the 25 requests for appeal, 17 concerned terminations and 8 of these concluded with settlements, with one case

resulting in reinstatement. Time and confidentiality did not permit our identification of actual costs involved in the appeal process. An appeal can continue for as long as two years involving the Civil Service Commission, county counsel, an appointed referee (attorney), organizational management and as many witnesses as required for a specific case. Is this process in the taxpayers best interest?

 

The Grand Jury then determined that both Civil Service Commission and management are doing their jobs as prescribed. Could there be something wrong with the prescription? Could guidelines and recommendations be prepared to allow management to function without every decision being questioned?

 

FINDINGS:

 

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

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

 

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

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.

 

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

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

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.

(Finding13, Recommendation 12)

 

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)

 

 

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)

 

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)

 

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)

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

1. Organizational Management

2. Performance Evaluation Concerns

3. Training

4. Civil Service

 

Affected Agencies

 

We want to advise you that California Penal Code Section 933.05 requires that responses to Grand Jury Findings and Recommendations must be made in writing to the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court and the Grand Jury Foreperson within 90 days (Governing bodies) or 60 days (Department heads) of the issuance of the report

 

Therefore the Grand Jury requires that you respond to each of the Findings and Recommendations that applies to your agency.

 

Please send your response to:

Honorable Judge Frank J. Oachoa

Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court

1100 Anacapa Street

Santa Barbara, CA. 93121

and

Grand Jury Foreperson at the same address.

 

Responses to the Grand Jury should be submitted on a 3 ½ inch computer disk (preferably in Word) along with the printed response.

 

 

ALL EXHIBITS ARE IN THE PUBLISHED FINAL REPORT