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Emmitsburg mandates staff accountability

Ashley Andyshak
News-Post Staff

(1/25) The hiring of a town planner was overshadowed Monday by a condition attached to the motion by president commissioner Chris Staiger.

Staiger's motion to extend an offer to the town planner candidate, whose name will be released upon acceptance of the job offer, was punctuated by a mandate that the town's three highest-paid employees submit to the board specific plans, timelines and goals for any project that will take more than 32 hours of work time.

Failure to comply could be grounds for dismissal, the motion states. The motion passed 3-1, with Cliff Sweeney opposed and Joyce Rosensteel absent.

Staiger said the move was intended to help keep the board informed of the town manager, clerk and planner's major projects, but before the vote, Staiger said he was not happy with the lack of board oversight of top town staff members.

He said commissioners should be more involved in hiring people to fill these three positions, and criticized the lack of board participation in interviews with town planner candidates.

The town's human resources consultant initially reviewed the 18 applicants, and town manager Dave Haller and Mayor Jim Hoover interviewed candidates and made the recommendation to the board. The selected candidate's resume was made available to commissioners before Monday's vote.

The new planner will be paid about $45,000 per year plus benefits. Town manager Dave Haller is paid $73,500, and salary information for clerk Donna DesPres was not immediately available.

Hoover said attaching a staff mandate to an employment vote was "crazy," and Haller called the move "ill-advised."

"I don't have a problem with the directive, but I do not agree with the fact that that it was wrapped into another issue," Hoover said. "These issues should have remained separate."

It's unclear how much more work the mandate will create for the three employees. Haller already presents a monthly activity report at commissioners meetings, a move Hoover introduced after taking office in 2002. The town's first staff planner, Michael Lucas, who was employed from 2003 to 2005, also presented a monthly report.

Hoover said he was somewhat surprised at the Monday night vote, given that in 2006, Staiger and other commissioners wanted to do away with the regular town manager's reports.

"It comes down to, do you want it or not?" Hoover said. "If they wanted the report to be different, they should have worked from what we already have in place."

But he said he'd take a wait-and-see approach to the new requirement.

"Thirty-two hours is not a lot of time," he said. "This may require three reports, or it may be 300. The impact may be considerable in the first two weeks, but then we may get into a certain groove after that. We'll just let the staff see what it entails."

Following the vote, Haller said he'd "better get writing, because I don't do anything less than (32 hours)."

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