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Board members want more authority

The city discusses a nepotism policy and the authority to hear discipinary appeals.

September 30, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

As Burbank’s Civil Service Board tackles what officials say is a long-overdue discussion on employee nepotism and dating at City Hall, the process has highlighted the board’s relative lack of power compared to similar commissions at other cities.

The board’s discussion of a nepotism policy comes as the city continues to grapple with lawsuits by former and current police officers alleging retaliatory firing and harassment. Now some board members would like to restore their authority to hear and make decisions on employee disciplinary appeals.

“What’s occurred in Burbank over the last 10 to 15 years is a reduction of [the board’s] work load,” said Matt Doyle, a Burbank Civil Service Board member and human resources director for Glendale. “Appeals have gone away from the board to arbitration.”

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Glendale has had a nepotism policy in place for at least two decades, Doyle said, and its Civil Service Commission, which was established in the 1930s, makes the ultimate decision if an employee wishes to appeal a disciplinary action.

In Burbank, the majority of the roughly 1,500 city employees who belong to a union have disciplinary concerns vetted by an outside arbitrator, bypassing the Civil Service Board altogether.

The arbitrator’s decision is a recommendation to the city manager, said Judie Wilke, Burbank management services director. The city manager can either uphold or overturn the decision.

Fire is the only group that has a disciplinary appeal or grievance go to the Civil Service Board, she said.

That wasn’t always the case. Through employee contract agreements, some made in the early 90s, “management has essentially negotiated away that particular aspect of the discipline process,” Doyle said.

He and at least one other Civil Service Board member support having the board hear disciplinary appeals again.

“I think it would be a positive turn of events,” Doyle said. “I feel the people making these decisions ought to have some connection or investment in the city, as opposed to an outside arbitrator.”

Los Angeles, Glendale and the county all bring employee disciplinary appeals under the purview of their civil service commissions.

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