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Council talks about employee matters

July 13, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - As town employees complained about low morale and the potential for no raises, the Williamsport Town Council went into executive session on Monday to talk about two workers.

First, employees said they were not happy.

"We've got a lot of disgruntled employees," Town Supervisor Jeff Long told the town council.

Long said he lost one of his best employees recently and that other employees are upset that they might not get raises.

He said this is the lowest that employee morale has been in at least 13 years.

Jeff Burnett said he worked for the city of Hagerstown for 30 years before taking a water job with Williamsport because of its tight-knit atmosphere. After meeting with top town officials, "I really felt like I was welcome," he said.

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But since a new administration took office in March, the feeling has changed, Burnett said.

He said employees consider it "degrading" not to get raises for the work they do in difficult conditions.

In June, shortly before the town council passed the fiscal year 2006 budget, Mayor James G. McCleaf II said the budget contains a fund to give employees raises of up to 5 percent. However, council members won't decide until later in the year if they will give raises, McCleaf said then.

Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones mentioned that Monday and said he was "taken aback" by the complaints.

He said the town could give higher pay if it cuts back on health insurance contributions.

The discussion sometimes veered into an argument about the employee Long mentioned and why he left his job.

But McCleaf said specifics about the employee shouldn't be discussed in open session.

At Councilman Jeff Cline's request, the town council went into executive session to discuss personnel.

Cline told The Herald-Mail that two specific employees would be discussed.

Maryland's Open Meetings Act says public bodies may - but are not required to - go into closed session to talk about specific employees, but not classes of employees.

During an interview after the executive session, Cline said, "It ended up being a good, heartfelt discussion."

McCleaf said a second, similar executive session will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m.

During the open session of the meeting, the council voted 5-1 to table a discussion on employees' vacation days and sick time.

McCleaf said the question was whether those paid days of leave should roll over to the next year if an employee doesn't use them.

Jones said the employees' allegation that communication with the administration is poor made him think the council's discussion should wait.

Cline cast the only vote against the motion.

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