Maricopa County supervisors enact personnel reforms

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Seeking to reduce time-consuming, out-of-date processes and add greater efficiency to the hiring and recruiting process, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 2 approved several changes to the county’s employee merit rules, according to a press release.

An update to the personnel system has been a  priority for three first-term supervisors, Chairman Steve Chucri, Supervisors Denny Barney and Clint Hickman.

“We streamlined the out-of-date rules so we have greater accountability, efficiency, competitiveness and productivity,” explained Chucri. “These arcane rules can be overly burdensome and time-consuming for our managers who are trying to hire the best and brightest. By being more business minded, this enables the County to be more nimble in the hiring and recruiting process.”

Generally, the changes, adopted in a unanimous 4-0 vote, reduce and clarify verbiage, giving greater authority and flexibility to department directors when advertising and hiring new employees. For example, the new rules reduce and simplify public notice rules and increase the initial probationary period to one year for many positions, while also giving employees greater opportunities for advancement.

“I’m excited about the changes we are making,” said Supervisor Barney. “We need to give those working in the trenches the tools they need to hire the most qualified people.”Supervisor Hickman was out of town but has said, “Ours is a complex business with more than 50 separate lines of service, operating in a fiercely competitive market. We must find a way to capitalize on the knowledge and skills of our county work force while we attract the next wave of educated, motivated and engaged professionals into public service.”

Although the vote was unanimous, Supervisor Steve Gallardo expressed reservations. “I sympathize with the intent here. I just hope this will not make it easier for political cronyism and personnel abuse to creep into county government. My chief concern is that our employees are treated fairly and this will not diminish their right to due process,” he said.

Specifically the new changes would:

  • Eliminate a requirement to contact at least five individuals or 50 percent of the qualified candidates referred to the manager;
  • Extend the initial probationary period from a minimum of six months to a year.
  • Ends the practice of “locking in” a new employee to a single position during the probation period. Under the new rules, a new or transferring employee may apply for another county position – or return to his or her previous one — during the probationary year.
  • The new system will also end the so-called “lifetime guarantee” to public employees who gain merit protections at one position and maintain a protected status throughout their career. Instead, at each new position change, promotion, transfer or demotion, the employee will enter a probationary period. “You have to prove yourself at each new job, promotion and position you take on,” explained MaryEllen Sheppard, director of the county’s Human Resources Department.

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