By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Qualms regarding the hiring process at Delano Municipal Utilities (DMU) have prompted the commission and the Delano City Council to rethink their rules.
At a work session meeting Tuesday, city council members decided to draft a letter to DMU addressing a few areas of concern, including personnel policy, accountability for infractions, and parameters for hiring practices.
“Some good policies and procedures are worth their weight in gold,” city attorney Mark Johnson said.
Neither the city council nor the DMU commission currently has a written policy in place for hiring, but both entities hope to implement one soon.
“We have a pretty standard process,” council member Holly Schrupp said, adding that it would be good to have that method documented on paper.
There are state statutes that have to be followed, but some parts of the hiring procedure are left up to each entity’s discretion.
As a non-profit electric and water utility owned by the City of Delano and operated by the Delano Water, Light and Power Commission, DMU doesn’t have to abide by the city’s hiring rules.
The city can, however, make non-binding suggestions and recommendations.
According to DMU commission chairman Larry Bartels, DMU talked about formulating a written hiring policy about six months ago, but it wasn’t a top priority.
Recently, there has been more of a push to get a policy in place, however.
Hiring decisions are typically made through the commission, but DMU general manager Hal Becker had been given some authority to hire part-time/temporary workers on his own, Bartels said.
A few years ago, Becker hired his son for a temporary/part-time position. At the end of 2010 there was additional work that needed to be done, so Becker’s son was working nearly full-time.
The commission has since discontinued the position, as well as another part-time/temporary painting position, because the work was complete. Also, the commission didn’t want to cause any controversy regarding the hiring process, Bartels said, adding that both employees were excellent workers, and that the primary reason for discontinuing their jobs was because of the temporary nature of the position.
Bartels said he doesn’t know if the hiring was wrong, but added that it is better to have rules in place to avoid potential issues.
“That’s the goal to make it clear who is supposed to be doing what,” he said.
Bartels said that as an appointed official, he is not able to be around 24/7.
“There are some things you have to delegate to the staff,” he said. “We don’t want to micro-manage.”
At the workshop, the city council decided that it would be a good idea for the city to have a written policy in place, as well.
City administrator Phil Kern said the policy should include basic generalities, but leave some flexibility.
For example, there should be allowances for different types of advertising and discussion time for hiring warming house attendants versus public works directors, he said.
“It’s kind of a balance,” Johnson agreed. “It’s good to have something on paper, but you also need to allow for variation.”
To learn more about DMU, go to www.delanomn.us/commission.htm.