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Retired professional urges better HR presence

Says form of government not to blame for corruption

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 3:38 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 2, 2013 3:40 a.m. CDT

DIXON – Retired human resources professional Mike Svach said Wednesday that if the city had placed a higher priority on human resources, the Rita Crundwell and Shawn Ortgiesen incidents would not have happened.

That is why the Dixon resident called on city officials to make human resources a high priority as they vow to make changes in the aftermath of the City Hall scandals.

His comments come after Police Chief Danny Langloss, also special assistant to the City Council, called for an HR audit last week and possibly hiring an interim director to facilitate it. Langloss said he has consulted with five firms so far to conduct the audit.

Svach said the city’s form of government is not to blame for former comptroller Crundwell stealing nearly $54 million from city funds, or former City Engineer Ortgiesen using city-issued credit cards for personal use.

“As a retired human resources professional, I would like to identify the 500-pound gorilla being ignored and say it is the lack of importance given by Dixon to the position of director of personnel, city policy and procedures,” Svach said at the first government task force meeting Wednesday. Mayor Jim Burke, Commissioner Dennis Considine and Langloss were present.

One of Crundwell’s three roles was personnel director, and in her place, Ortgiesen was given that role with the expectation of time to be devoted to those additional duties at less than 1 percent based on the salary increase, he noted.

“Two officials who should have been instrumental in preventing misconduct were actually engaged in misconduct,” Svach said.

“With the absence of a strong human resources director, we see that the work environment of Dixon was based on personal relationships and not professional expectations.

“No human resources director would allow a top executive holding three important functions for day-to-day operation to be absent 25 percent of the year.

“No human resources director would allow a top executive holding three important functions for day-to-day operations to carry a long-standing debt to the employer with no plan for repayment.”

Svach said a human resources director can plan, direct and coordinate the administrative functions of the city, including reviews of policy and procedures to be sure they are in compliance with state and federal labor laws.

Also, a director can oversee recruiting, interviewing and hiring new staff; consult with top executives on strategic planning; and serve as a link between management and its employees.

Langloss said Svach is “absolutely right.” The police chief said with the proper personnel director, the city could enter into a pool for health insurance that would save about $200,000.

“Also, we need to look at our hiring process, our evaluation system, our compliance with labor laws,” Langloss said. “Without the proper procedures, that’s a liability to the city.”

The city’s hiring process outside of the police and fire departments are determined by whoever needs the position – there are no checklists of questions, guidelines for how to advertise the position or orientation sessions involved in the hiring process, he said.

The city’s hiring process also came into question at Monday’s budgeting session, when Considine asked about nepotism involving the hiring of part-time city help.

The discussion centered on two part-time employees who have relatives working for the city.

Langloss said that the part-timers cannot work directly under the supervision of a relative, and that the city is in compliance with its policies, but he did say that policy would be questioned.

“I don’t know if it’s so much having relatives work for the city, as much as it’s giving everyone a fair chance at any position,” Langloss said. “We have to be sure the hiring process is fair and open to everyone.”

As for whether a human resources director would’ve stopped Crundwell or Ortgiesen from misconduct, Langloss said it’s too hard to say.

He’s confident, though, that it would prevent another similar situation.

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