MONTGOMERY, Ala., July 31, 2007 -- Chancellor Bradley Byrne has made up his mind as to what to recommend to the State Board of Education concerning elected officials and double dipping and flextime. The Board as a whole will start discussion of the proposed draft policies August 6 and vote on the policies, or some form thereof, on August 23.
Byrne's words at a Board work session the end of June seemed to foreshadow much of what is in the proposed policies. At the meeting Byrne remarked that "instead of having a policy, the prior chancellor, Chancellor Johnson, issued a directive to the system that essentially laid out a pretty broad flextime policy...After thinking about the present situation...here's my concern about the directive from Chancellor Johnson:
"I read it and wondered why I bothered to quit my law practice; because, under that directive, I could continue to be a full-time practicing attorney and be your chancellor and simply say that I'm doing my chancellor's duty on my flextime."
"I don't think that's what you expect of me because that means I wouldn't be here from 8-to-5 and let me tell you from 8-to-5 a lot of things happen. I don't think that's just true of a chancellor. I think it's true of vice-chancellors, presidents, deans, etc. So, to have a policy that is that broad, I think is a real mistake, particularly since it would allow somebody essentially to have two different jobs. Forget the Legislature, it could be a lawyer; it could be somebody working at Wal-Mart - it doesn't matter."
"And I'm not looking at this from the perspective of hurting somebody that works for the system. I'm looking at it from the perspective of what the system should expect from people who are employed in the system to do work that's important to the people of the state of Alabama."
The draft policies, sent to board members on Tuesday and being outlined in a Wednesday afternoon press conference with Governor Bob Riley will exempt lawmakers currently employed in the system from the edict: "Employing authorities may not employ any elected state official." Elected state officials already employed when the policy goes into effect can continue in their current positions "until the expiration of his or her term of office then in effect." However, those who stay on "shall not be eligible for promotion, advancement, or any non-statutory pay raise or bonus during his or her term in office."
According to the Department of Postsecondary Education the following legislators are employed by the Alabama College System:
The flextime policy - a companion to the double-dipping policy, says the unpaid leave required to be used "for outside employment or activities which result in compensation and/or the reimbursement of expenses" is limited to 10 days a year, effectively meaning legislators, or anyone else, will have to make choices, if the recommended policy is approved.
"At the end of the day, I've got to call my recommendation to the board on that policy the way I see it, and the Legislature is going to do whatever the Legislature is going to do as a result of it," Byrne said in an earlier interview.
Paul Hubbert, head of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) told two-year college presidents at a meeting in June that firing all the lawmakers was not the solution. Instead Hubbert suggested that the problem could be solved by ensuring that everyone, including lawmakers, employed by the system are doing the job they've been hired to do.
"We need to do a better job of monitoring. Anybody not doing their job, whether or not they're in the Legislature should not be in that job." But Hubbert added it's a "slippery slope to start disqualifying people for what they do for a living."
Byrne told me following Hubbert's speech at Orange Beach in June, "I wish that the whole problem with double dipping was as simple as he stated it; but, it's not and we can't treat it as if it's something that just goes away because we're going to make sure everybody works . That's probably a noble idea; but, in practicality, I don't think it's going to work that way."
Attorney General Troy King declined to rule on the constitutionality of the governor's earlier proposed policies but he did conclude that the State Board "subject to the recommendation of the Chancellor" has "the authority to make rules and regulations relating to employment and general contracts" but also concluded the Alabama Code "gives state employees the right to participate in political activities 'to the same extent as any other citizen of the State of Alabama." King's opinion also stated that the term 'political activities' "is not defined..."
As to whether or not dismissal "pursuant to proposed policies would violate the provisions of the Fair Dismissal Act," King's May 10 opinion says: "The question of whether the proposed policies provide 'good and just cause' for termination is a decision that must be made by the State Board and, ultimately, by a court of competent jurisdiction." Whatever policies are proposed may also be subject to review by the Department of Justice.
The draft policy related to the employment of elected state officials, following the definitions, reads as follows:
"EMPLOYMENT OF ELECTED STATE OFFICIALS PROHIBITED"
"Employing authorities may not employ any elected state official. However, an elected state official who was actively employed as of the effective date of this policy may be continued in the same position of employment until the expiration of his or her term of office then in effect. In such case, the elected state official shall not be eligible for promotion, advancement, or any non-statuory pay raise or bonus during his or her term in office."
"CERTAIN CONTRACTS WITH ELECTED STATE OFFICIALS PROHIBITED"
"Employing authorities may not enter into any personal or professional services contract under which services are to be performed by an elected state official."
"Employing authorities may not enter into any other type of contract or business relationship with any corportion, partnership, company, joint venture, or other business entity in which any elected state official holds a financial interest of five percent (5%) or more."
"Notwithstanding the foregoing, any contract of the kind described above which is in existence as of the effective date of this policy need not be immediately terminated but shall be terminated on the earliest date for which the contract may be terminated without penalty, and no such contract may be renewed, extended, or amended to expand the term or alter the termination procedure or penalties."
"All new contracts of the kind described above shall contain a provision providing for the automatic cancellation of the contract upon the taking of elected state office by any person whose election would have prohibited the contract under the provisions of this policy if the person were to have been elected prior to the formation of the contract."
"EMPLOYEE'S OBLIGATION UPON ELECTION TO STATE OFFICE"
"An employee who is elected or re-elected to an elected state office after the effective date of this policy must submit his or her resignation effective on or before taking office. Nothing in this policy shall be construed to restrict or limit an employee's right to campaign for elected state office, provided that campaign-related activities are conducted while on approved leave or on personal time before or after work and on holidays, consistent with state law."
Flexible Work Schedule policy
"1. All Alabama College System employees engaged in outside employment or activities during their normal work hours must request personal, annual, or unpaid leave in accordance with State Board policy. Only unpaid leave is available for outside employment or activities which result in compensation and/or the reimbursement of expenses. For purposes of this policy, unpaid leave will be limited to ten (10) days per calendar year. Under no circumstances should additional duties or responsibilities be imposed on other employees as a result of an approved request pursuant to this policy."
"2. In circumstances other than those specified in paragraph one, a flexible work schedule may be granted upon approval of the Chancellor."
"3. A flexible work schedule may be granted to employees in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as a reasonable accomodation when appropriate."
"4. This policy shall supersede all other policies with respect to employee work schedules and assignments."
Appointment and Assignment of Personnel
"1. The President of each institution shall appoint the faculty and staff of the institution according to qualifications approved by the State Board of Education and such other policies as may have been adopted by the State Board of Education. The President of each institution is authorized to make assignments of faculty and staff at the local level. The Chancellor has the authority to reverse any appointment or assignment of personnel determined to be contrary to any statute, and such policies as may have been adopted by the State Board of Education. The Presidents serve at the pleasure of the State Board of Education."
"2. A full-time consenting employee may be transferred from one college to another or from the Department of Postsecondary Education to a college, with the written agreement of both the transferring and receiving Presidents or Chancellor, and with the approval of the Chancellor. Transfer requests will apply only to positions for lateral moves and will conform to the Alabama College System Uniform Guidelines."
More following the press conference with Governor Riley and Chancellor Byrne early Wednesday afternoon.
Reported by: Helen Hammons
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