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In the best interests of the employees and the taxpayers

By Staff | Dec 13, 2017

To the editor:

Recently the regional daily newspaper reported that two of the Lee County Commissioners gave 5 percent retroactive pay raises to the county manager and county attorney, both of which are appointed positions. A third commissioner voted against the raise, but for the wrong reason: he wanted to give them a retroactive 6 percent raise. The article included that “No formal public performance evaluation was conducted and no goals were set for the coming year. Commissioners simply voted to boost the pay by more than $10,000.” I asked a former county commissioner how he would have handled a similar situation and he said he never would have voted to increase any employee’s pay until a formal public performance evaluation had been conducted.

Almost two weeks later, Steven Maxwell wrote a column in that paper about how the Lee County managers’ raises without supporting performance evaluations sent the wrong message. He explained that in all of Florida’s county governments, and all its municipalities, supervisors of non-probationary employees are expected and required to conduct a documented annual performance on their respective employees’ anniversary hire date. These evaluations are the best way to measure how efficiently, effectively, and ethically employees have performed their position’s duties and responsibilities. Without documented annual performance evaluations, employees are not given feedback about how their work is viewed by their supervisor and no clear goals for the coming year are established. They deserve that. It is not in the best interest of the public or taxpayers, either, to have this situation exist for many years. What Dr. Maxwell wrote made a lot of sense to me, because we have a similar situation going on in the City of Sanibel.

Through many public records requests, a pattern of uneven performance evaluations for non-union employees has become clear. Even when employment contracts for appointed, highly-paid employees’ specifically require annual performance evaluations, they have not been given. In the case of the city attorney and the city manager, over the course of over 15 years, they each have received only one formal documented performance evaluation: in 2007 by then Mayor Carla Brooks Johnston. This is not to say anything negative about their performance; certainly the city manager has done an outstanding job. But she deserves to have annual performance evaluations conducted by the mayor and City Council, as well as goals set for the coming year.

All department heads report to the city manager. My understanding is that, if annual performance evaluations are not completed, employees are ineligible for cost of living increases. Some department heads receive performance evaluations annually from the city manager, which is wonderful. But, some seem to receive them approximately 50 percent of the time. Unfortunately, at least one highly paid department head has not had even one documented performance evaluation since being promoted to the position in 2009. Prior to that time, the person was evaluated in 2006, 2007, and 2008. I hope that all department heads provide annual performance evaluations for their employees, because that is good management. But, how or why could a department head not be reviewed for eight years? How did that slip through the cracks? Surely there is some kind of HR report printed on a regular basis that would have highlighted that.

The City of Sanibel has a director of administrative services overseeing human resources who can assist the mayor and City Council in this matter. Rather than dwell upon the errors and omissions of the past, the mayor and City Council can rectify this situation by making sure all non-union employees who did not receive a formal documented performance evaluation in 2017 get one within the first 30 days of 2018. They can take the lead by conducting evaluations of the city manager and city attorney in early January 2018, then require the director of administrative services to prepare a report to be submitted at the January council meeting with the names of all non-union employees who did not receive a performance evaluation in 2017. The city manager can use that as a checklist and report back to the City Council as evaluations are completed.

All employees, City of Sanibel or otherwise, deserve to know how their work is viewed and to have clear goals for the upcoming year identified. This best management practice is not new, but has long been generally accepted. It is in the best interests of the employees and the taxpayers of Sanibel, too.

Alison Ward