City close to hiring shared HR director

Published 10:46 am Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Interim City Manager Clarence Monday informed the members of Franklin’s City Council on Monday that one of three candidates to interview for the position of full-time human resources director is being “actively pursued.” It is possible that the city will be able to make an announcement regarding the position within the next few days, he said.

More than 25 people had applied for the position, which will be shared with Southampton County per the terms of an agreement approved by the Southampton County Board of Supervisors in November 2016. Monday and Southampton’s deputy county administrator, Lynette Lowe, conducted the interviews.

That agreement was the result of a recommendation from the county and city’s shared services committee, which was formed following a November 2012 memorandum of understanding between the two governing bodies to investigate the possibility of combining some city and county government functions. Representing Franklin on that committee were the city’s then-mayor, vice mayor and city manager.

Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson said it was his understanding that an employment offer had been made — but deferred to Monday, who is the point of contact for the hiring process — as to whether the offer had been accepted.

As of November 2016, the starting salary for the position was estimated to be between $67,800 and $84,800, with benefits costing an additional 35 percent. According to Monday, Franklin would pay 60 percent of the cost and Southampton County, 40 percent.

Per the terms of the shared services agreement, the HR director would spend three days per week in Franklin and spend the remaining two days in the county.

The City of Franklin’s human resources director position has been vacant since the beginning of October. Carolyn Joyner, the city’s previous HR director, had been serving in a part-time capacity since March 2017. Southampton County’s government, on the other hand, has never included a full-time HR professional. In 2006, a staffing needs analysis recommended the county establish such a position on the grounds that more and more local governments are becoming the subject of litigation based upon violation of state and federal statutes and regulatory agency requirements pertaining to human resources.

As such, the primary duties of the director may include maintaining policies, programs and procedures for recruiting; selecting and retaining qualified staff; directing the administration of the respective position classification and compensation plans in the city and county; overseeing the administration of employee benefits, including overtime and leave; managing the workers’ compensation program; overseeing employee the performance evaluation program; and participating in employee relations activities, including investigations and terminations.

Following Monday’s report to the council, Councilman Greg McLemore said he was in “total opposition” to sharing a human resources director with the county and expressed doubts as to whether that person would be “loyal” to the city if he or she was also working for the county.

Speaking to The Tidewater News on Tuesday, he also claimed that there had been no official vote by the council to approve the hiring of a shared HR director, as there had been in Southampton County in November 2016. As evidence, he produced a record of emails between himself and City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV dated Nov. 29, 2018, in which Williams references the 2012 shared services MOU and then writes, “The City Manager has the authority to hire for that position without a specific motion from Council. The Council did adopt a MOU for shared services. Therefore the City Manager can hire a H/R manager for the City as a shared service with Southampton County.”

As for Franklin’s other vacant positions and those staffed by interim appointees, Monday said that the city had received 24 applications for city manager, all of which have been screened by the City Council. Interviews will be conducted within the next 15 days. For police chief, the city received 12 applications and conducted interviews last week with the goal of having someone in place by Jan. 1, 2019 — which is when the city’s current chief, Phil Hardison, will retire. If this date is not met, Deputy Chief Robert Porti will become interim chief.

The application window for a director of parks and recreation closes on Friday, Dec. 14, with interviews taking place after the holidays. There has been no activity on the search for a new fire chief or finance director, as these are not considered to be the highest priority positions to fill, Monday said.

Deputy Fire Chief Mark Carr is serving as interim fire chief and Tracy Gregory is serving as interim finance director on a contractual basis.