by Tom Loftus, @TomLoftus_CJ –
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s legislative leaders approved a job classification plan and an updated personnel policy manual for the 320-person legislative staff on Wednesday – reforms suggested in a 2014 audit that found a severe dissatisfaction among the staff.
“What this plan entails are job descriptions for every position…” said David Byerman, who as director of the Legislative Research Commission, oversees the staff. “We have set clear expectations for every position. We have delineated exactly who reports to whom here at the agency. Believe it or not, that was not clear when I arrived here.”
The legislative leaders hired Byerman, a former legislative administrator from Nevada, as director 10 months ago after a national search to find a new director.
The problem of low staff morale was the focus of a 2014 audit of the Legislative Research Commission staff that legislative leaders requested be done by the National Conference of State Legislators following complaints by some female staff members that they had been sexually harassed by then-State Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, and that staff administrators took insufficient steps to respond to their complaints.
Arnold denied the allegations but resigned under fire and was later found to have violated the legislative ethics code by the Legislative Ethics Commission. Longtime staff director Robert Sherman said he took prompt and effective action in response to the complaints of the staffers, but retired amid the controversy.
The subsequent audit suggested conditions for staff dissatisfaction were caused by outdated and informal personnel policies that gave the staff director too much authority over salaries, promotions, hiring and firing.
“I am trying to create new management practices that set clear expectations for who does what and how much they’re paid for that. In the past as you know, the director has had an enormous amount of discretion,” Byerman told the legislative leadership Wednesday. “That discretion may work to my advantage in the short run, but it causes long-term problems where our staff feels the decisions are made capriciously, or arbitrarily or unfairly.”
Byerman said that in the fall he’ll ask leaders to approve a compensation plan to correspond to the new job classifications as well as a process for annual job performance evaluations for each employee.
Also Wednesday, Byerman presented legislative leaders with of the agency’s new personnel manual, which hadn’t been updated since 2004.
The manual updates policies on compensation time, implements a new process for filing grievances, establishes a policy for maternity and paternity leave, and outlines flex time policies for the period between legislative sessions, Byerman said.
Byerman emphasized that his recommendations for new policies were based on input from all staffers as well as research into the best practices of legislatures in other states.
Both House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said they believed Wednesday’s actions were important. Stivers said they reflect commitments he and Stumbo made “to make sure that we corrected things that in the past had happened. And one of those ways to correct it is to have a clear delineated policy which has now been set forth.”
Reporter Tom Loftus can be reached at (502) 875-5136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.