Council gives split decision on job descriptions

WESTFIELD – In a split decision, the City Council sent a revised job description for Personnel Director back to committee, and approved a revised job description for the Director of Public Works, after several discussions on both over several meetings. The city is looking to fill both positions, as there is currently a part-time interim personnel director, and DPW Director David Billips is retiring this month.

Personnel Action Committee chair Cindy C. Harris requested suspension of the rules for immediate approval of the revised Personnel Director’s job description, which was shot down by a no vote from At-large Councilors Dave Flaherty and Kristen Mello.

“My concern is it hasn’t changed as we asked. It hasn’t changed significantly since the last time we rejected this. We haven’t made those changes, and I’m still concerned about it,” Flaherty said, adding that the Council had asked that five years of municipal and labor union experience be required, not preferred.

This led to a discussion on whether there could be a discussion after a no vote for immediate consideration and no motion on the floor.

Council President Brent B. Bean, II said he would have preferred that the Council vote the job description up or down rather than send it back to committee.

Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy, a member of PAC, said that Attorney Shanna Reed had made several changes to the job description after listening to the discussion at the last City Council meeting. “If you look at the memo attached to the shared drive, she thought she had added what we wanted,” Figy said.

Mello said if the item had been listed on the agenda as a vote for immediate consideration, she would have been happy to vote on it.

Ward 4 Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane said she wanted to see the ableist language in the job description, raised by Mello at the last meeting, changed. Specifically, Mello had suggested that the requirement to lift 20 pounds was not relevant to the position, and would exclude some qualified applicants.

Legislative & Ordinance Chair William Onyski agreed to have the motion referred to L&O for further changes, and to bring it back to the City Council for a vote at the next meeting on Nov. 5.

By contrast, the amended job description for Director of Public Works brought forward for immediate consideration by Harris passed unanimously after a brief discussion. Harris said Bean had sent an email with corrections and/or additions, and/or subtractions for the job description, that had been subsequently approved by the Public Works and Water Commissions, the appointing authorities for the position.

“I want to thank everybody involved in this. This is exactly how I envision our role is supposed to happen. We get a job description and if we like to make edits, we do that and we send it back with the edits, and they send it back to us with edits. That’s our role as an oversight authority. I really truly appreciate everybody’s effort here. As you can see, they did make the changes we requested with one exception. I think we’ll get better candidates and a better leader because of it,” Flaherty said.

“I would like to thank the two commissions, the Water Commission and DPW, for their hard work and understanding. I attended that meeting tonight on zoom with Councilor Burns. These guys put the work in and they did the job. I’m glad to see this move forward,” said Ward 5 Councilor John J. Beltrandi, III.

At-large Councilor James Adams said he had hoped an engineering license would be required for the position, but he said he would not hold it up. “I think the last two directors were licensed engineers,” Adams said, adding that he hopes that the person they hire will be a licensed engineer.

“I’d like to echo Councilor Beltrandi’s great words for the commissions. They did come more than halfway. I think this is about as good as we’re going to do right now, and I think it’s a good job description,” said Ward 4 Councilor Michael Burns.

At the end of the meeting, Flaherty thanked Billips for his service to the city. “I want to say thank you very much to Director Billips, I want to thank him so much for everything he’s done for the city over his long career,” Flaherty said.

Figy echoed the comments about Director Billips, and said he also had a statement to make.

“As a former chair and current member of PAC, it’s very frustrating when things keep bouncing in and out of committee. I’m encouraging everyone who has suggestions on job descriptions in particular to reach out to the acting personnel director Rich Merchant or to Acting City Solicitor Shanna Reed. They’re not mind readers. It’s been very frustrating not only for the chair but also to the members of PAC to have this yoyo effect going on,” Figy said.

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