A spokesman for the local Fraternal Order of Police praised city officials for moving forward with a proposed comprehensive survey of the pay and benefits received by city employees. But he also cautioned city leaders not to let the survey gather dust on a shelf.
During this past budget approval process, city leaders promised to conduct a review of the city's employee compensation and benefits in time for the end of the current fiscal year next June. The idea was supported by members of the Hyattsville lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, which objected to some aspects of this year's budget.
Communication is Key
Last night, city police officer Zach Nemser urged city leaders to adhere to the request's call to develop plans to communicate news about the survey to employees in a timely manner.
"As it currently stands, communication between the employees in this process has been abysmal," said Nemser on behalf of the Hyattsville lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police during the city council's public comment period at the start of the meeting.
Highlighting this perceived communication gap, Nemser noted a recent questionnaire circulated among city employees asking them to rate their satisfaction with various aspects of their benefits and compensation packages.
Nemser said the questionnaire was distributed without any context, and members of the city police force had difficulties completing it to the city's satisfaction.
Later during the meeting, Chris Vermillion, Hyattsville's human resources director, said that the survey was Mayor Marc Tartaro's idea.
"Some of the miscues can be laid at my feet," said Vermillion. "Once we heard there was an issue, we tried to explain it. The survey came back with…pertinent info about what is important to employees."
Nemser interpreted one section of the RFP outlining the scope of the proposed survey to mean that the city was already hedging its bets on the outcome of the proposed compensation study.
The section in question instructed contractors to prepare an explanation of the mechanics of the study, detailing how the survey would be conducted, what other cities the survey would be comparing Hyattsville to, and–most troublingly for Nemser–why the city would conduct a survey if it could not afford to adjust salaries to regional parity.
"If that's the case, what are we doing?" Asked Nemser.
Vermillion said that this was a misinterpretation of that particular section of the RFP.
He raised a related issue, noting that the police promotional process has been on hold for eight months now. He urged city officials to provide an update on the status of police promotions.
Tartaro said that Nemser had skewed some facts during his presentation, but he declined to detail them.
"Some of the characterizations…I don't necessarily agree with them," responded Tartaro. He said that an update on the police promotions would be forthcoming.
"That answer is exactly what we've gotten for the past eight months," said Nemser as he departed the podium.
The city now prepares to send out the request for proposals to conduct the survey. According to Vermillion, after the contract to conduct the survey is awarded, the it could be completed within three to four months.
The survey would cover a wide range of topics regarding the city's employee compensation. Things like the competitiveness of the municipal pay scale, compensation for temporary contract employees, how employees who have reached the top of the pay scale are handled, and other cities "best practices" would all be put under the microscope.
The question of which cities Hyattsville's compensation policies would compared to is still an open one. Nemser asked that city officials consult with employees when developing the list of benchmark cities for the survey.