The Human Resources Committee on Monday authorized the HR Department to negotiate employee settlement compensation, while at the same time creating a paid internships budget and changing rules governing Police Department resignations in the first three years of service.
Granting settlement negotiation authority to the City’s Human Resources Department became necessary, department officials said, because the current process is long-drawn and delays the settlement payment to staff leaving employment – even for amounts below $2,500, as happened in a recent case.
The HR Department sought the authority, with mayoral approval, of either $10,000 or $25,000 – the amounts similar to what a division or department head can authorize for procurement at their discretion.
The HR Committee Chair, Becky McElhaney (Dist. 6), said she suggested the discussion after noticing the process bogged down the committee, the City Council, the HR Department and and other units and required closed sessions to discuss the settlement compensation. The process also revealed the name of the employee which, McElhaney said, should be avoided.
The committee unanimously voted to authorize the HR Director to handle such negotiations up to $25,000.
HR Committee approves a budget for paid internships programs
The Committee also approved the HR Department’s proposal to budget $20,000 for new paid internships programs at Wausau offices.
The program would establish a general policy approving the employment of interns for 10-15 hours per week with pay ranging from $10-20 per hour, depending on the position. Only applicants 16 years of age or above would be eligible for such internships. At the $20,000 level, the budget would support about three intern opportunities for the year.
Mayor Katie Rosenberg lent her support to the idea.
“I am here to just enthusiastically support the paid internships,” Rosenberg said, adding that her office received several expressions of interest from potential applicants.
Despite concern on policing repayment rule, Committee approves change
The HR Committee approved a change to the Employee Handbook with regard to Wausau Police Department hires.
At present, if a police officer or a firefighter voluntarily leaves service in the first three years of employment, they are required to pay back a portion of the training and hiring expenses.
“Our current policy regarding repayment of training and equipment for new police officers requires a prorated repayment if the employee leaves employment for any reason in the first three years,” Bliven wrote in a memo to the HR Committee. “The repayment is intended to partially offset costs associated with their training and equipment.”
The police chief said this repayment obligation could compel a person to remain in the police department for which they consider themselves a wrong fit. He suggested two options to address the matter, one of which added a sentence clarifying that the rule only applied to police officers and the circumstances for its applicability. This option would be applicable if the situation met two criteria: if the officer has had less than three years of employment and is leaving for other sworn law enforcement employment. The other option would simply strike off the words police officer from the relevant section of the handbook.
The HR Department, however, was in favor striking out the repayment obligation altogether since they would find it tough to establish why a police officer left employment and its implementation might not be consistent.
The HR Committee approved the option of adding a qualifier after asking Chief Bliven his preference. He suggested going with the first option. The added language reads: For Police Officers, this section only applies if the employee leaves employment and accepts a sworn law enforcement position with another law enforcement agency within 12 months of terminating employment with the City of Wausau.