The city continues to have challenges filling vacant positions. In an effort to help with staffing shortages, the Great Bend City Council Monday night approved revisions to the city’s nepotism policy to allow for family members to be hired in certain circumstances.
Although this is a city-wide problem, Human Resources Director Randy Keasling said it really hits the Police Department, which is currently down six officers. “These are very challenging times for staffing and we are struggling, like many cities are struggling, to fill public safety positions.”
So, Police Chief Steve Haulmark approached Keasling with an idea.
The nepotism policy was last revised a number of years ago when the city updated the employee handbook. “The idea was to do the best we could at that point,” Keasling said.
But, “staffing challenges were a little different than. We didn’t have quite the struggle we’re having right now,” he said.
The problematic section states that members of the same family cannot work in the same department. “This is a challenge for us,” he said.
Haulmark made the comment that sometimes families have a long history of being in public service, such as fire and police. “It kind of runs through their core,” Keasling said.
“Our policy right now does not allow us to take advantage of that,” Keasling said. Currently, the city has a well-qualified applicant who has applied for the police department, but whose brother is a current police officer.
“Our goal always is to hire the very best people who are the most qualified for any position that we have open,” Keasling said. “In this particular instance, this young man is qualified. I think he would be a good addition to the city” but can’t be hired under the current guidelines.
His proposal was a rework of the nepotism policy in a way that would allow the city to consider family members in the same department, although they would not be supervised by a family member. “We wanted to get out of our own way by me looking at this policy and deciding if there was a way we could rewrite it that might make our hiring a little more friendly,” he said.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Lindsey Krom-Craven understood why the change was needed but had some concerns regarding family members working on the same shift, as well as conflicts that might arise with executive team management.
Keasling, Haulmark and Fire Chief Luke McCormick addressed the shift issue. They assured the council relatives would not be scheduled on the same shifts, although there was a chance their paths could cross in emergency staffing situations.
She and others on the council were worried this was being done to solve an immediate problem without looking at long-term ramifications. Also, some wondered how current staff who have seen family turned away might feel.
As for the executive team, there are departments within the city, such as Public Works, that have multiple branches, City Administrator Kendal Francis said. As the is now, someone could not work for the Waste Water Division should they have a relative with the Code Enforcement Division, even though these are different jobs and would not interact.
When the matter came to a vote, the plan as presented failed. However, a revised motion to better define shift work rules and more strict wording regarding supervisory rolls passed.