City manager backtracks on employee reviews - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City manager backtracks on employee reviews

April 18, 2006

Albany -- Some disgruntled city of Albany employees will get another shot at an $1100 bonus. City manager Alfred Lott said today he'll review and recalculate 51 job evaluations, in which employees unfairly scored too low to qualify for the bonus.

Tuesday, Lott explained to city commissioners the controversial process the city used to hand out the merit based bonuses. He admitted the job evaluation system was flawed and shouldn't be used again, but he stopped short of saying he made a mistake by continuing to hand out the bonuses after finding out the scoring system hurt lowered level employees by docking them points supervisors and other higher-up employees received.

Nearly 100 city employees, many public works employees, packed into the commission chambers to hear the City Manager's report on the recent employee bonuses and to express their disgust over how those bonuses were handed out.

"To totally disregard the employees, minus a few, any incentives other than their regular salary has broken the spirit, the pride and the morale of many," said Public Works employee Jeannie Anderson.

Anderson spoke on behalf of dozens of other workers, many of whom lost out on the bonus because they received "not applicable" on certain criteria like training and managing employees.

That lowered their overall score. "It's just messed up how some people didn't get it. I know people who work hard that didn't get it and people who've been out there 25 years. I know they do hard work because I've worked with a lot of them," said Roderick Freeman.

City Manager Alfred Lott said he made the decision to count the NA's against employees. "I was concerned that the employees who had to work all of that criteria would have been put at a disadvantaged," said Lott.

But he says he didn't predict so many problems or upset employees. "Therefore I elected to reconsider and give credit to those people."

Lott told commissioners he would review and recalculate the scores of 51 employees who didn't get the bonus because of the NA's. Handing out more bonuses could cost up to $56,000, but commissioners say that's OK.

Commissioner Tommy Postell said, "I feel that if there was a man-made error, it should be corrected. Those 51 person should not be penalized because the error was not theirs. It was ours."

But commissioners disagreed on whether merit pay raises should continue, after the city implements a new, less subjective job appraisal system. "My main concern is that we proceed with the merit raise," said Commissioner Bo Dorough. "That's the only way we're going to reward superior and we're going to identify employees who are not performing at a satisfactory level."

Commissioner Tommy Postell was applauded by employees after suggesting across the board raises each year rather than merit based incentives. "That's the only way you're going to be satisfied with not having a mass production like we had this morning with disgruntled employees."

Most of the employees we talked to were happy and satisfied that the city manager was recalculating the scores. They hope they will now get the bonus they earned. The city is implementing a new performance pay system they say is less subjective and more goal based, which will hopefully prevent more problems like this one.

The problems started as soon as the $1,100 bonuses were handed out in February. 380 of 740 city employees got the bonuses, which cost the city about $400,000.

Employees immediately started complaining about the bonuses to supervisors, human resources staffers and commissioners.

March 21st, Assistant City Manager Kevin Hogencamp announced his resignation. He said he couldn't work for a city manager who didn't help employees who were unfairly appraised and therefore missed out on the bonus.

Ten days later on March 31st, computer analyst Simit Patel quit, too. He said the NA's caused him not the get the bonus even though he scored high in other categories and the Human Resource department ignored his complaints.

That same week, commissioners asked the city manager for a full report on the controversy.

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