Employee hiring, nepotism, outside employment rules also on agenda
by Robin Kemp
The Forest Park City Council is considering whether to fine councilmembers who violate the city’s Ethics Ordinance. The measure is up for discussion during Monday night’s work session, which starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
That penalty would be 10% of a councilmember’s monthly paycheck.
According to the draft ordinance, “any member of the City Council, including the Mayor, found to have violated any provision of this article” would lose 10% of their gross monthly pay “in the month following such determination by the Board of Ethics.”
Each additional violation would cost another 10%, up to $1,000.
According to the current budget, here is what the mayor and council earn monthly:
Based on these figures, a single violation would result in a penalty of $300.16, with up to $900.48 in possible penalties in a single monthly check. That essentially would cut a councilmember's pay almost in half for one month to $952.85, should he or she be found guilty of three ethics violations.
The proposal comes after the council's outside investigator found two councilmembers, Dabouze Antoine and Latresa Akins-Wells, violated the city's ethics code. The rest of the council voted to censure Antoine and Akins-Wells. Antoine was censured after the investigation found Antoine accepted more than $500 from a company that later got a contract to repair the Perkins Park basketball court, fence, and parking lot in Ward 2. Antoine was not censured for using a city credit card to purchase personal clothing and gifts, which he later said an unidentified private citizen reimbursed. The council fell one vote short of removing Antoine from office, despite the ethics investigator's recommendation.
Also before the council this evening are several changes to the city's personnel policy, including a merit-based pay grade system. Employees could be eligible for annual merit pay increases of up to 5% if they earn at least a 3 on their annual performance evaluation.
According to the proposed rule, "The purpose of the pay plan is to provide a systematic way of establishing pay levels for each classification of employee....The proposed pay plan can establish internal equity among city employees and can place the city in a more competitive position with other local governments and employers within the labor market area. To remain competitive after implementation of the plan, it is necessary to conduct a survey every two years."
The city's human resources director, Shalonda Brown, would be responsible "for the implementation of the plan's classification and salary changes and maintenance." However, "The Appointing Authority/City Manager has the authority to make an exception to any of the rules outlined in the policy as written."
The new draft policies lay out specific criteria for hiring, promotions, and job searches under federal employment law. For example, openings would be advertised for at least a week in advance; candidates would be rated according to training and experience; and the city would not be able to hire some relatives of existing city employees ("spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, sibling, mother-in-law, father-in-law, or sibling-in-law") unless "the employee works in an entirely different department or location from the current employee and if neither is a direct or indirect subordinate of the other." Not included in the proposed change are sons- and daughters-in-law, aunts, uncles, or cousins.
Another change would prohibit any city employee from "engag[ing] in any paid employment in addition to his or her employment with the city which interferes with efficient performance of his or her duties, which presents a conflict of interest. Every regular full-time employee seeking to work a second job will be required to report this fact to, and obtain the approval of, the Department Head in writing before accepting outside employment. Such approval may be withdrawn at any time without prior notice to the employee."
In addition, the regulations would prevent Forest Park Police officers from earning overtime pay "where they are working for private companies in the City of Forest Park, even if they are performing police-type duties for employers within the City of Forest Park, and even where they continue wearing a Forest Park Police uniform."
The city also will codify an employee dress code banning:
- bare feet or flip-flops
- Spandex, sweats, or workout attire
- sagging pants, shorts, or short skirts
- sexually provocative clothing or exposed undergarments
- clothing with offensive slogans or pictures
- clothing showing excessive wear or tear (distressed/cut-out jeans)
- any clothing or accessories that would present a safety hazard
- visible tattoos that are not appropriate in content
The proposed policy does not define "short," "sexually provocative," "offensive," or "not appropriate in content," and gives managers the power to counsel or send home any employee they deem to have violated the policy.
The city also will conduct annual performance reviews between April 1 and May 15 and discuss these with employees between May 15 and 21.
The Forest Park Police Department has requested permission to surplus about 50 Chevy Tahoe rear bench seats that have been gathering dust in the 110 Building at Gillem Logistics Center "from 2009 until 2020. These seats were removed from patrol vehicles as the rear seats require the use of a plastic bench seat and a partition that must be installed for prisoner and citizen transport purposes," wrote Charlotte Brannon. "I'm requesting that the Police Department will be allowed to surplus/donate these seats and leave them in storage upon the sale of the building, wherein the new Owners will take possession of them and dispose of them accordingly. These seats are filthy and in poor condition as they have been stored in a garage-type area that is not airtight or temperature controlled, for many years. Because of their condition the seats have no value; at this time, we would like to get approval to dispose of them from Mayor Butler and the City Council."
Also on tonight's work session agenda: recommendations to the new Urban Design Review Board, as well as ordering new city flags (19 flags and hardware totaling $11,831, featuring the new city logo) and streetlights.
The regular meeting follows at 7 p.m. Councilmembers are set to vote on an amendment that would allow on-premise alcoholic beverage sales anywhere on Main Street, regardless of distance from churches or schools. However, the ban on sales within 100 yards of any housing authority properties would remain in place.
The council also will vote on a resolution creating a city capital project priorities list. The ordinance specifies that "This document shall be maintained as a public record by the City Clerk and shall be accessible to the public during all normal business hours of the City of Forest Park."
A list attached to the ordinance shows the city has $53,909519.22 set aside for the following projects:
- $500,000 for welcome signs, using SPLOST money from 2015-2020
- $8,136,000 for a fire station at Gillem Logistics Center, using $6,316,074.22 in Urban Redevelopment Authority bonds and $1,819,925 from SPLOST 2015-2020 funds
- $9,115,285.41 for a fire station at the new City Center on Forest Parkway, using $9,115,285.41 in URA binds
- $11 million for Starr Park Phase 1 renovations, using $5,127,758.88 from SPLOST 2015-202 funds, $1,516,471 from SPLOST 2021 bonds, $3,858,770.12 from URA bonds, $300,000 from federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and $197,000 from Georgia Environmental Protection Division grant funds
- $21,658,233.81 for the new City Hall at City Center on Forest Parkway, using $2,845,877.68 from 2008 SPLOST funds, $510,963.24 from SPLOST 2015-202 funds, and $12,469,844.89 from URA bonds
- $4 million for Main Street Streetscape, phase 2, using $1,493,479.02 in SPLOST 2015-2020 funds, $2 million from SPLOST 2021 bonds, $156,520.98 from URA bonds, and $350,000 from Tax Allocation District (TAD) funds
In addition, the city projects an estimated $31.6 million in future capital project costs:
- $10 million for Fire Station 2
- an additional $11 million for Starr Park (phase 2)
- another $4 million for Main Street (phase 2A)
- $6 million for the Model Mile
- $300,000 for "Theater Park"
- $300,000 for "Fourth Ward Park"