LRC's shift to one-to-one compensatory time policy "just makes sense," agency's director says

06/04/2016 05:51 PM

FRANKFORT — New Legislative Research Commission Director David Byerman faced a daunting task when he took over the LRC in October — reform an agency that had been blistered in a 2014 audit by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

LRC’s handling of compensatory time was one of many issues highlighted in the NCSL report, with past directors doling out time based on average overtime hours worked per department during legislative sessions.

Auditors wrote that the system was “biased by favoritism and subjective judgments about the value of each office’s contribution to the process.” Some LRC staffers felt “shortchanged by a process that averages out their overtime workload, causing them to receive less time off than the overtime hours they actually worked and other staff to receive a comp time award exceeding their actual contribution,” according to the audit.

Byerman, in an interview with Pure Politics, said he’s moved the agency’s nonpartisan staff to a one-to-one comp time system in which employees earn overtime hours based on their individual schedules.

“One thing that we really need to do here at LRC that I’ve been working very hard to do is empower supervisors to better supervise their own offices,” he said.

“Here in LRC, as you probably know, the director wielded an enormous amount of individual authority. One of my jobs, frankly, as director has been to make the director’s office a little less powerful and to put a lot more of that supervisory responsibility in the hands of people who are right there working day-to-day with the employees that so much great for us at LRC.”

Byerman also changed another long-standing policy requiring all LRC staff to stay at the Capitol until 30 minutes after the General Assembly adjourned for the day. Now, only those who are needed in either chamber must stay late during sessions while others stick with their normal schedules, he said.

That’s a matter of respecting employees’ time, he said, noting that lawmakers didn’t notice a difference this year. He also provided a chart showing that this year’s comp time awards came within 1 percent of those hours doled out in the 2014 budget-writing session.

“We have used comp time here at LRC to compensate people, as a way to pay them,” Byerman said. “It’s the wrong use of comp time. It’s the wrong use of time. Comp time should be used to reward people for working extra hours, not for doing a good job.”

Another comp-time policy changed by Byerman involves the award of what are known as block payments, when employees can cash out comp time for pay as long as they haven’t received such payments within a calendar year and they have at least 240 comp hours remaining after cashing out.

Those blocks typically come in 80-hour increments, and records dating back to 2009 obtained by Pure Politics show that those comp payouts were typically handed by former assistant director for human resources Roy Collins, who often passed along the information to the LRC’s payroll office without employees’ requests.

In other instances, fellow deputy director Robert Jenkins would handle those requests, as would former LRC Director Bobby Sherman, who retired from the agency in 2013 following a sexual harassment scandal involving two legislative staffers and a former lawmaker, and interim director Marcia Seiler, who took over after Sherman left.

Those approvals would be accompanied by the employees’ requests or approval from legislative leaders if the staffers worked in leadership offices, records show.

Block payouts now flow through deputy director for human resources Bill O’Brien, and for Byerman, that consistency is important.

“In general I think human resources is a field where you just need to have some routine, you just need to have some predictability to the process,” he said.

Another topic addressed in the NCSL audit dealt with the agency’s lack of job classification and pay scale systems.

Byerman says he’s empaneled a steering committee to address those concerns and he’ll have plenty of others that he can tap nationally from his past experience with Nevada’s state Senate staff.

He says he hopes to have a proposal for legislative leaders to consider in October.

“That would be exactly one year after I arrived here, and if all goes well, a process that we thought would take up to two years to develop, we can deliver in one,” Byerman said. “It will take some time to implement that because one of the key things that I think will inevitably be a part of a classification system will be an employee evaluation system because if you’re going to classify employees, you need to be able to evaluate how they’re doing in their current job.

“Here at LRC we have historically had a culture where we just haven’t done evaluations, and so we’re going to start doing that in order to make sure that we have the right people in the right job and that we’re spending public resources in a fair and equitable manner.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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