City Council to discuss recommendations to improve equity in hiring, promotions system

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At a special meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will discuss recommendations from the city auditor and city Personnel Board about improving equity in the city’s hiring and promotions system.

The city retained the public policy research firm Mason Tillman Associates to investigate complaints from the 1980s through 2013 about an “absence of transparency in the hiring and promotion process, failure to hold supervisors, managers, and directors accountable for their actions, and inconsistent application of rules and regulations in the hiring and promotion process,” according to the firm’s report.

“The report is one of the most important documents of the year in identifying what many of the problems and many of the perceptions have been,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

After this report and a request from Councilmember Max Anderson, city auditor Ann-Marie Hogan conducted a two-year audit from 2013-14, during which she conveyed her findings to the city so that corrective action could be taken immediately.

The city auditor’s recommendations included improving documentation, new written guidelines for hiring managers and the implementation of mandatory training courses for hiring managers.

The city’s Personnel Board released its own set of recommendations, which included increasing training and publicizing existing options for employees who believe they are being treated unfairly.

“The ideal outcome and goal is to have a city workforce that is confident in the fact that there are policies and procedures and training in place where all employees are being treated fairly and there’s a perception that they’re being treated fairly,” said Personnel Board chair Isaiah Roter.

Roter added that recruitment to ensure diversity in the city police and fire departments is a particular focus of the Personnel Board. The board’s review found, however, that the city is overall above parity for women and minorities compared to Alameda County as a whole.

“There’s a question of what we’re actually doing, then there’s a question of perception,” Hogan said. “Human resources needs to be a lot more transparent to everyone about how the system works.”

In its conclusion, the city auditor’s report noted that “documentation of procedures lags behind best practices implemented, creating a process that lacks transparency.”

The audit included a schedule and indicated at which times the city manager should present updates concerning the training of their hiring managers. The city auditor recommended improving trainings so that managers could better understand the merit-based hiring system and the value of workplace diversity.

“They are committed to fully completing almost all of them by the end of the fiscal year,” Hogan said.

According to Hogan, every person in charge of hiring in all city departments will have been trained by July 30, 2017.

Despite the continued implementation of these recommendations, Worthington said “we still have some issues to be worked on.”

“It would be beneficial to bring back (Mason Tillman Associates) to review how far we’ve gotten and when we’ve succeeded,” Worthington said.

City Council is expected to hear both the city auditor’s report and the Personnel Board’s report at its special meeting Tuesday, which will follow with the council’s regular meeting.

Contact Patricia Serpa at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @pserpa_dc