Earlier this year a three member ad hoc council committee, of which I was one assigned member, was formed by our full city council – in a public meeting – to review city employee benefits, including policies for use of sick and vacation time. The goal of this exercise, which had not been done since 2007, was to ensure that Denton’s policies for all departments and employment levels were competitive within this region. We found ourselves below average in some areas, and have made recommendations to correct. In other areas we found our policies to be high outliers. An example of this would be our current policies related to rollover of sick and vacation hours. The committee has done its job: It evaluated our current state, compared our current state to other municipalities, and has filed recommendations to full council of approaches which would bring Denton in line with the market. Whether we take those recommendations or any form of action at all is entirely up to the full council (taking no action is always, and often, an option).
I completely understand the anxiety that any employee might have if they were unaware that this committee had been formed and is now taking these policy options forward to be discussed in a council work session (and it is important to note that a council work session discussion is a public, open, broadcast, and recorded discussion… it is not a vote). That is exactly why each member of this committee agreed and required employee representation (including representation from our police and fire departments) in this process. The purpose of this employee participation (via the Employee Insurance Committee) was to ensure that communication channels between this ad hoc council committee and our front line employees across all departments was open and that all viewpoints were being represented along the way. As this committee’s work concluded, its recommendations should not have come as a surprise or out of the blue. Every meeting was public. Every meeting was posted and transcribed. Stakeholders had representation and input throughout the process.
Yesterday quite a bit of speculation and misinformation about this process was circulated across the community and with our staff. And that is unfortunate. Accusations of secretly formed committees and rumors that council was going to have some form of closed door vote to take away our employees benefits this coming Monday are all unfounded. I know that all three council members who served on this committee have been and continue to be aggressive proponents of wide-open transparency within our municipal government, so this disconnect and these accusations are confusing.
There is a thin line to balance between community demands for lower taxes and managing a rapidly growing base of employees tasked with delivering first class service and public safety. Part of my job as a council member is to objectively look at and consider all options and discuss those options with the community, employees, and fellow council members. In this open and transparent discussion on employee benefits, and sick/vacation roll over policy we built in employee representation and engagement. Clearly, if Tuesday’s council work session discussion is coming as a surprise to some of our employees then that means that the system and process of communication and inclusion broke down. That really bothers me. It means that people that were supposed to have awareness, a voice, and participation in this exercise are left now feeling completely surprised, and frankly attacked, based on the misinformation or partial information that they have been given. If I were in their shoes I would feel the same. As an elected official I sit at the top of Denton’s organizational chart. That means the buck stops with me. The process of stakeholder inclusion clearly did not work across all departments of our city. No matter what the cause of this break down is or where it occurred, it means that some part of the process was broken. So as a leader of the city I will take responsibility for the broken process. I will also take responsibility for understanding how the process broke down, where the process broke down, and take actions to ensure that the process does not break down in the future.
Below there is a link to the posted agenda item and backup material for Tuesday’s council work session discussion on this topic. Feel free to attend. Feel free to watch online or on television. Citizens and employees should feel free to call me or email me or other council members with your questions, comments, or concerns. I return phone calls and emails.
To my family friends and neighbors who proudly serve our city in the fire and police departments: You know me on a personal level and I hope that you remember that you can always talk to me regarding both the truth and the misinformation being spread regarding this committee’s assignment, action, and resulting options for council discussion on Tuesday.
Keely G. Briggs – City of Denton Council Member – District 2
Link to agenda item and backup materials: http://denton-tx.legistar.com/gateway.aspx?m=l&id=/matter.aspx?key=6752
My contact information:
Link to contact info for all council members: https://www.cityofdenton.com/government/city-officials/city-council
Committee Timeline and Actions
Overview of Committee Recommendations for Discussion on Tuesday