City council, please don’t amend the personnel ordinance

Published 2:33 pm Saturday, February 2, 2019

At the January meeting of the Americus mayor and city council, a move was made to waive the second reading of an amendment to the city’s personnel ordinance. Council member Nelson Brown wants to reclassify the position of finance director and place it in the same classification as the police chief and fire chief. Council members Brown, Kelvin Pless, Juanita Wilson, and Daryl Dowdell voted for, with Council members Lou Chase and Charles Christmas voting against. The motion to waive did not pass because it was not unanimous. The matter will again come up in February.
We are asking members of the city council not to adopt the amendment, for various reasons. It was first Nelson Brown’s idea that all the city employee positions be subject to a study and classification process, and his fellow Council members concurred. The city, meaning the taxpayers in the city, paid almost $28,000 to have a study done by a respected, impartial firm in Virginia. The recommendations coming out of that study led to a cost of living raise for all city employees, reclassifications of positions, and bringing the salaries of fire and police personnel up to a competitive level in the region in order to attract good candidates. City council approved the recommendations and everyone seemed happy, at least momentarily.
Then Brown decided that the finance director’s job should be reclassified to match those of the public safety department heads.
With all due respect to Diadra Powell, the city’s current finance director, we believe there is a vast difference in what she does, and what the fire and police chiefs do on their jobs. Public safety people literally put their lives on the line every day to protect the lives and property of local citizens. It is dangerous work entering a burning building or accosting someone with a gun or knife or other weapon who is threatening others or them. Either job can result in death or serious injury. We cannot think of one single example of a finance director being put into harm’s way while doing their job.
Again, the city has already spent almost $28,000 for the study and has approved the recommendations. If they begin dismantling this ordinance as they did the alcohol beverage ordinance last year, what’s the point of spending money on studies by independent parties? What’s more important than being fair, equitable, and most importantly wise in making decisions that affect the citizens of this community?
Please, city council members, we respectfully ask you to put your personal agendas aside and do what it right: Uphold the conclusions of the study and stick to the personnel ordinance as it is written.