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Division of Personnel Director Draws Ire of Senators

July 18, 2006– Tempers flared during the second round of budget hearings Tuesday as some senators locked horns with Division of Personnel Director Kevin Rodriquez over a number of issues, including the delayed processing of Notices of Personnel Action (NOPAs) and a lack of organization displayed by the agency.
Some senators also questioned why Rodriquez did not come prepared to answer certain key questions, such as the amount spent on government salaries every two weeks or the dollar value of public sector vacancies throughout the territory. "We're trying to talk about an efficient government here," Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said after Rodriquez did not supply an answer to either question. "As the personnel director, you should know these things."
However, senators' concerns peaked after Rodriquez cited instances where government employees have been able to transfer from one department or agency to another without alerting Personnel.
"There have been situations where the supervisor of an agency or department has not made sure that the transfer of an employee is done properly," Rodriquez explained. He added that employees must discuss the decision to transfer with a supervisor, who, in turn, alerts the agency or department head.
"The matter is then brought to Personnel, where a new NOPA must be processed before that individual can assume another position," Rodriquez said. "That was not being done."
"I can't believe what I'm hearing," Sen. Ronald E. Russell responded. "Because what you're suggesting is that favoritism and cronyism can play a part in the government without your knowledge. It shouldn't happen that employees are hired by an agency without Personnel being involved."
"An employee is supposed to submit a letter of resignation before they transfer to another government department or agency," Nelson added. "So there's no way that they should be able to just move wherever they want anyway."
To assuage the concerns, Rodriquez said he had "issued a directive" requiring employees meet with their respective agency head to discuss the transfer process. "Since the directive has been sent out, this situation has not been an issue," he added.
After the meeting Rodriquez said he would also be implementing training for supervisors about what to do when an employee decides to transfer.
Senators also questioned Rodriquez about delays in the processing of NOPAs, or government employee paperwork, which must be signed by various departments before individuals can start their jobs or receive pay raises.
Rodriquez said that while the turnaround time for processing NOPAs ranges from five to eight days within Personnel, delays experienced by other departments and agencies extend the process.
"Sometimes these things can take months to process because the department or agency doesn't make sure they have enough funding to pay for the position before they set up a job interview," he added after the meeting. "That needs to be addressed. The departments and agencies also need to make sure the person being interviewed is qualified before sending the NOPA to Personnel for processing."
During the meeting, Rodriquez also responded to questions about the division's $3.1 million operating budget for fiscal year 2007 — and its $1.15 million supplemental budget request, which includes: $900,000 for a classification study, $190,000 for four new employees and $60,000 for a 60th anniversary celebration for the division.
"A classification study would allow the government to have a better picture of the local workforce," he explained after the meeting. "It would allow us to make sure our employees are working within their job description and classification. Right now, there is no way to check that, and Personnel does not currently have the funding or the manpower necessary to undertake such a huge task."
During the meeting, Rodriquez said $1.7 million is needed to reimburse residents paying in excess of what is required for government health insurance, along with money owed to retirees who are switching to the Medicaid program.
This request is currently not a part of the division's supplemental request or its operating budget, which totals $3.1 million.
The recommended operating budget for FY 2007, which reflects an increase of $472,088 over last year's appropriation, includes: approximately $1.86 million for 46 filled positions and 3 vacancies; $597,676 for fringe benefits; $38,205 for office supplies; $476,924 for consulting services and maintenance costs for the division's human resource information system; and $96,245 for utilities.
Present during Tuesday's meeting were Sens. Liston Davis, Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Nelson, Russell and Usie R. Richards.
Sen. Roosevelt C. David was absent.
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