The much-debated changes being made to the multiple county employee handbooks now being used have been approved, but remain very much a work in progress.
The Greene County Commissioners adopted three new employee policy handbooks Monday morning, but with the understanding that a newly formed committee will review the document and likely make some amendments by late April.
The commissioners by a 2-0-1 vote agreed to adopt three separate handbooks -- one covering county employees in the courthouse, annex, highway department and extension service offices; another for sheriff department employees; and another for Ambulance Service employees.
Commissioner Bart Beard abstained on the vote for each of the three handbooks saying, "There is too much gray area."
County officials hope to mesh together information from three other handbooks used by the judge's offices, prosecutor's office and community corrections department into the central county employees handbook, according to commissioner's attorney Marilyn Hartman.
The new five-member policy handbook task force -- recommended by commissioner's president Steve Lindsey -- will be comprised of commissioner Kermit Holtsclaw; one appointee of the county council; one appointee from the prosecutor and public defender offices; one appointee from the two courts (circuit and superior); and one appointee from the courthouse offices.
The task force has been charged with the duty to review the approved policies in each of the handbooks, which are about 80-pages each, and then make recommendations no later than the second commissioner's meeting in April.
"We're trying to get everybody's input and move forward knowing that we are putting this committee together to talk with the people (employees) and make some recommendations to us (the commissioners)," Lindsey said.
Holtsclaw was insistent that a firm date for the recommendations to be forwarded to the commissioners was established.
"As long as this happens on that date. I don't want to see any cancellations if there are corrections that need to be made in the book (the employee handbook)," he said. "We've got personnel books all over the place -- the sheriff's department, the judicial system book, the EMS. There are many pages that are identical in every book. Why couldn't we combine them and make one book with a section for each group? Would that save us any money?
"If we can guarantee this (committee) is going to happen, we can accept it (the handbooks) now with understanding that we will come back with one or more meetings concerning the handbooks."
County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw said he would have liked to have had some input before the standard handbook was passed, but he said he appreciated the opportunity to have a committee to further review it and recommend changes where needed.
He wants to get started on the task force work immediately.
Hartman, who has worked with consultants from Waggoner Irwin Scheele, Inc., from Muncie, to draft the employee handbooks, said about 80 percent of the language changes are being made to come into compliance with changes in federal laws governing the Fair Labor Practices Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and military leave.
"They (the revisions) are applying to provisions where the federal law has changed. With those changes, we needed to get this (handbook) updated," Hartman said.
The current handbooks was first written about two decades ago.
The adoption of the handbook has been a laborious process by both the commissioners and county council and the three policies will undoubtedly be revised.
The council approved and made recommendations on changes in salary and benefits at its last meeting.
Among the adopted policy highlights are:
* No change to the current work hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as seven hours per day with one hour unpaid lunch -- resulting in 35 hours per week for full-time courthouse employees. A 40-hour work week was proposed for the highway department employees with one-half hour unpaid for lunch.
* Change the current vacation schedule to provide that newly hired employees earn no vacation for a period of one year. Following one year, they would be entitled to one day per quarter, based upon their hire date. There is a proposal to grandfather in all vacation time for current employees, but for new employees the following vacation was recommended: After two-five years -- five days; after six years -- 10 days.
* Allowing up to three consecutive work days for the death of an immediate family member and one day for non-immediate family members.
* Eliminate longevity for all elected officials and probation officers
* Create a Greene County Administration Committee comprised of a county commissioner, a council member and the county auditor that can monitor personnel issues that might need changed in the future in the employee handbook.
* Adopted of a nepotism provision.