Saturday, November 15, 2008

Big Picture County Reform

A process is playing out in Northern Ohio that may ultimately impact us down here.

Earlier this year, the State of Ohio created a commission to study Cuyahoga County government, which is structured just like our's (a statutory structure, versus a charter structure). That commission recently issued a report that details the challenges of County government, and recommended a number of major reforms to County government. This report is now under consideration in Columbus, and who knows where it will lead--or how it may someday impact other counties like our's.

For those interested, the full report can be read here: http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2008/11/County%20Reform%20Declaration%20asd.pdf

The recommendations would have a major impact on how Cuyahoga County is run, which positions are elected versus appointed, and the spending of taxpayer dollars. Some of the major recommendations include:

- retain a three member County Commission, but move to a stronger, elected President of the Commission (similar to moving to a strong Mayor approach): the President would recommend the annual budget; recomend the appointment of the administrator and department directors; and oversee those administrators;

- merge the Auditor's, Recorder's, and Treasurer's into a Department of Finance, the head of which would become a department director appointed by the County Commission;

- make the Clerk of Courts office into a position appointed by the Court of Common Pleas;

- make the Coroner and Engineer into positions appointed by the County Commission;

- keep the Sheriff and Prosecutor as elected positions, but transfer the civil division of the Prosecutor's Office as the Department of Law under the County Commission, with an appointed director

- create a Human Resource Commission to set appropriate and uniform standards, requirements and hiring policies for County employment.

To many citizens, this may all seem like inside baseball. But as a County official, I can tell you this set of recommendations would fundamentally change almost all aspects of the way a County is run, including who citizens get to vote for.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the meantime, as I study this issue myself, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

What about the 5 or 6 assistant directors that JFS has. If the assistant director positions/salaries were eliminated it could potentially save 15 to 20 staff/workers from being laid off. Isn't 1 director enough? There are also many created management positions at JFS that do not have direct contact with the clients nor have staff responsibility. If the county/JFS is in a hiring freeze why are recruiter positions still needed in HR?

Anonymous said...

The Cuyahoga County approach seems like it could help streamline some the problems that Hamilton County is now experiencing.

Anonymous said...

There are only four assistant directors at JFS. One over each major program area and the shared services. It is the same at just about any county. Your lack of knowledge about what it takes to run a business is pretty remarkable. Govt. is pretty efficient. Have you ever worked anywhere in the privte sector that didn't have VPs over major areas of the business? The director/CEO cannot do eveything. Your business would not be very successful if one person was in charge of every aspect of it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:05 you dound a little defensive. From my work with the JFS - there is huge duplication of efforts. The commissioners oughta call in the head of the union there and ask him a few questions about what's really going on. They won't like what they hear. Now, I'll give Moira SOME credit, I think she is working very hard to turn the organization around - but there level of patronage there is incredible.
ANon 7:39 is absolutely right about HR -
In fact, a report issued in2000? said the autonomous operation of the JFS HR is a violation of federal and state law - but nobody changes it after the auditors leave.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering how many assistant directors were there before the 90's when the last money crunch hit JFS? If line staff report to line managers,line managers report to section chiefs, section chiefs report to assistant directors, assistant directors report to the director...too many layers in a government non-profit organization. Has anyone thought about the executives are so far removed from line workers that if line workers are laid off it could be a major problem for the public that are to be served?

Anonymous said...

They've said the cuts will mostly come from support and management positions, not front line. And JFS no longer has its own HR department. You guys really have to educate yourself before you make these comments.

Anonymous said...

If Simon Leis's & his boy's use 72% of the general fund then why are'nt they taking a bigger hit in layoffs? Hummm..

Anonymous said...

Everyone is aware that HR at JFS was combined with the County HR department and salaries/classifications were adjusted. Recruiters and trainers are all management positions. There is no need for either position if JFS does not have new staff coming in. Sounds logical right? Its a waste of tax payer dollars and revenue.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought why can't the Commisioners and the Directors
take a pay cut. how about cutting free parking for upper management. how about getting rid of the double dippers.

David Pepper said...

We'll be looking at all those options.

Anonymous said...

To the one who thinks we need to educate ourselves. what do you do? are you Einstein or something? we all see what goes on day in and day out with county spending. you don't have to a wizard to figure out the county waste money.

Anonymous said...

Let me ask this. If the County & JFS knew about our financial situation a year ago why did they spent big buck on all the advertising for a job fair, hire new employees only to lay them off less than a year later. Now you talk about a big waste of money and look what it is costing 350+ employees?

Anonymous said...

Let me ask this. If the County & JFS knew about our financial situation a year ago why did they spent big buck on all the advertising for a job fair, hire new employees only to lay them off less than a year later. Now you talk about a big waste of money and look what it is costing 350+ employees?

Anonymous said...

Commissioner Pepper, I hope you will take advantage of a great resource and discuss some of these recommendations with your father, who has actually run a business. It is easy for someone one the outside looking in to say managers are not needed, but ask your dad how successful he would have been if it was just him managing every employee in the company. Or ask him how he would have kept his talented people if he gave them no raises and took away and perk they had, such as parking. If someone has worked for the county, remained loyal and excelled, making it to upper management, they are likely some of your best employees. Don't slap them in the face by saying they are expendable because managers are not needed for a business to excel or by taking away the one perk they haved left.

Anonymous said...

To the one who thinks Mr. Pepper should confide in his father about how to run a business. since your a manager try being the front line worker making a wage of 30.000 a year & no free parking no raises medical that is over priced etc. don't you think the front line worker is loyal too. I believe they are because they are doing the grunt work making you look good. these workers excel also so please don't make them feel as if they are expendable too.

Anonymous said...

Line staff help to make their bosses look and be successful. If you made it to upper management and you now receive free parking be glad that you are not a line worker/manager and have to pay an extra $60 to $80 per month. Your salary should be enough.

David Pepper said...

I agree on the unfairness of the current parking situation. I brought this several months ago, and we're looking into it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Com. Pepper...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pepper

What is being done about the double dippers?

please tell me that the Commisioners/County Administrator are not going to let Simon Leis get his way with thowing a temper tantrum so he down feel the pain of layoffs in his division. Does Simon Really need all of toys he has like the tank and boats jet ski's etc on our county dollars.

Anonymous said...

why in the world aren't the lay offs being done across the board? Entire classifications are being eliminated. Employees with 25 and 30 years of experience (and knowledge) are being laid off while people hired in September are safe.

This is resulting in a disparate impact on older workers (over 40) and is going to lead to law suits!

Greg Harris said...

I think county government is pretty antiquated, and we certainly cannot thrive as a region in the 21st century on 19th century form of government.

I applaud Comm. Pepper for looking at the fundamental issue of governance reform because, as illustrated by our current budget crisis, our current form of government is unsustainable.

Our regional neighbors, by contrast, are far more forward thinking. Indianapolis, for ex., has unigov, incl. a single metropolitan police dept. We have something like 48 different police departments within the county. The streamlining of these multiple law enforsement departments under a single administration (an elected thus accoutable sheriff) would free up so much resources that could actually be used for well cooridnated countywide crime fighting and safety. You can take this example and apply it across multiple agencies. We spend way too much on the very costs of government.

The Cleveland proposal sounds like a good way to streamline several positions and create more clear lines of accountability. Voters don't pay much attention to races like Clerk, Recorder, etc., but they would pay attention to the performance of an executive-level commission president who is accountable for county performance.

Finally, as the largest jurisdiction in the county, the City of Cincinnati needs to lead the way in terms of examining consolidation of specific services with the county. Government shouldn't be a self-feeding beast. It is the responsibility of public servants to determine what forms of government are most efficient and effective for its citizens. The bureaucratic mentality, by contrast, benefits by multiple layers of duplicative government regardless of its benefit to citizens.

Anonymous said...

I was recently laid off from JFS and am curious to why my staff (who had mandated functions) were reassigned to higher paid managers that only had a couple of staff? That is not good common sense...to pay someone more money for a job that was being done for less money just to save those managers from being laid off.

Anonymous said...

Does someone else read all the comments or does Commish Pepper before publishing to the blog?

Anonymous said...

When I and others were laid off we were told to keep checking the Hamilton county website to reapply for positions at the county in January. Is the county planning on dropping the hiring freeze in January? Or reposting positions for staff to reapply for at a lower pay? We were also told that if we find another job that we might lose our severence pay...is that true? Is there anywhere we can find out the answers? The HR department didn't seem to know when asked...

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