P&Z plans to keep hiring process for next director confidential

Planning and Zoning will not allow a Boyle County magistrate to sit in on meetings and interviews concerning the hiring of the next P&Z director.

Magistrate Jack Hendricks “could serve — and I’d be willing to let him serve if statutory authority could be shown that would allow him to do so,” P&Z Chairman Jerry Leber said Tuesday.

“(P&Z attorney) Bruce Smith has been unable to find any statutory authority to allow … someone from the county magistrates or from the city commissioners to be appointed or to be able to sit in on the Personnel Committee interviews — or any other personnel issue, for that matter,” Leber said. “So it’s not me — I’m going with what our lawyer tells me.”

Leber said he doesn’t want to run afoul of the law by allowing anyone to sit in on closed Personnel Committee meetings.

Boyle County Fiscal Court voted last week to have Hendricks sit in on the P&Z Personnel Committee as it worked to interview and pick a new director for the agency. Current director Paula Bary is retiring at the end of June.

Magistrate Phil Sammons said his impression from a Monday P&Z budget committee meeting is that “they will not let (Hendricks) in there” for Personnel Committee meetings. Sammons said he was “disappointed” in what he heard at the meeting.

“They’re surviving from the city and the county’s support from the taxpayers and naturally the taxpayers are footing the bill for this, but they (P&Z) don’t want to abide by any rules,” Sammons said.

Asked where P&Z is at currently in the hiring process, Leber said, “We are in the process right now of interviewing candidates and that’s all I would be willing to say on that because that meeting is totally confidential.”

Magistrate John Caywood said he asked during the meeting that P&Z provide the fiscal court with a written explanation of attorney Smith’s reasoning.

“I feel like that’s the right way to do it and that way nobody assumes anything,” Caywood said Tuesday.

Monday’s P&Z Budget Committee meeting also included “a lot of ideas thrown around, a lot of suggestions thrown around, with regard to the four-day work week,” Leber said.

In addition to seeking involvement in the hiring of the next P&Z director, Danville and Boyle County elected officials have also decried P&Z’s current four-day work week and said they want to see the agency return to a full five-day week.

Leber said the budget committee “did not come to any conclusion other than that we will make a budget committee report at the next (full P&Z Commission) meeting.”

But the committee and those who attended the meeting, including Sammons, Caywood and Danville City Commissioner Denise Terry, did discuss a lot of options, Leber said.

Leber said suggestions included having the new director work five days a week, so that he or she would be in the office on Fridays; and rotating P&Z employees so that some work Fridays and are off on other days.

“We tried all those things previously … and none of those things would be customer-friendly, for lack of a better term,” Leber said. “It creates a situation where if there’s one person in the office and they’re working on a person with a plat (and another customer comes in), they’ve got to do one of two things.”

Leber said such a setup is “not good in terms of being customer-friendly.” It can also lead to phones ringing for a long time if the office is understaffed and those in the office are already tied up with customers.

“We just don’t want to create those kinds of feelings with regard to the office when there’s only one person there,” he said.

The committee talked with attendees about cross-training the P&Z staff to do each other’s jobs — something else Leber said he doesn’t think would work well.

“Those jobs vary so much,” he said. “It’s hard to expect all three people in that office to be able to do all three jobs. … We just feel uncomfortable with having one person there or having one person do everyone’s job.”

Sammons said he came away from the meeting feeling like his questions had not been answered.

He said he asked why P&Z employees take off a full day on Thursdays when Fridays are a holiday. For Good Friday, for example, other employees working in Danville City Hall worked a half-day on Thursday and then were off for Good Friday; but P&Z employees were off all of Thursday.

“They couldn’t explain that to me, OK?” he said. “That kind of upset me.”

Sammons said when the idea of rotating employees was brought up, attendees were told it wouldn’t work well.

“I’m not buying that,” he said. “I’m not buying that a bit.”

Sammons said it seems committee members are “held down” to keeping the whole P&Z staff in the office on days when P&Z is open. Because of that, P&Z is likely going to come back with a price for how much it would cost to expand to a full five-day work week, rather than a less expensive proposal for staggered staffing, he said.

“They said one person may not be able to answer a question,” Sammons said. “I said, ‘well, take notes and share those on Monday.’”

Magistrate Caywood said he attended the meeting in order to “hear and to listen.”

“I was really there to listen and to not comment,” he said. “I wanted to hear the discussion and the thinking on their approach for the five-day work week.”

Caywood said his impression from the meeting was that P&Z is open to a five-day work week if the city and county will fund it fully, but the agency is not keen on suggestions that don’t maintain full staffing on all open days.

“I think their recommendation would be if the city and county will fund it, then we will do it,” he said.

Caywood said he asked the committee members if candidates for the P&Z director position were being informed that the job may expand from a four-day to a five-day commitment, and they confirmed that was indeed happening.

Leber said the budget committee has not made a recommendation one way or the other on four or five days, and it will probably be left up to members of the full P&Z commission to decide. A commissioner will need to make a motion to go with four or five days a week, he said.

“It was a very cordial and very professional meeting,” he said. “I think the meeting went really well and everybody left on good terms.”