Two City of Carson Council aides may be “reclassified” and effectively demoted by the City Council. The debate over this issue has raised questions about protection of whistleblowers in the city, as well as how the newly enacted City Charter deals with city personnel issues.
At the Jan. 28 Special Council Meeting, the council discussed reclassifying several positions including Community Liaisons and the Assistant to the City Manager. The item returned at the Feb. 19 meeting, where Mayor Al Robles called the reclassification an “action that will lead to litigation, directly.”
Mentioning whistleblower protections, Robles said he believed the action will cause a lawsuit against the city and alluded to a case in the Montebello Unified School District that he said cost that agency $9 million. Several members of the council have noted that the liaison positions were previously “unclassified” positions with the title of Field Deputy.
The employees have been in limbo for weeks. At the March 19 meeting, council discussed the matter for nearly an hour. Several motions to deal with the issue failed and Council left the matter unresolved.
Reclassifying the job titles would take these employees out of their labor union (AFSCME 1017) and return them to “unclassified” at-will employees. One effect of this would be making it easier to fire these employees. Proponents of the change have said that is not their intent, but at least one of these employees has addressed the Council saying that they believe they are being targeted because they have testified about past mistreatment of employees and harassment matters.
The City Council’s involvement with these personnel decisions may also be at odds with the city’s own policies. Carson’s City Charter, passed last November, authorizes formation of a Civil-Service Commission to process employment matters at City Hall.
Further, the Charter also specifies the City Manager, not the City Council, handle personnel matters.
This item may be resolved when a permanent City Manager is hired in the coming weeks, or the council may take it up at a Special Meeting in the near future.