More than a year after the city of Palmview was cited for having a “weak” policy and procedure manual, officials are getting ready to finalize an update on the manual, which has not been updated since in nearly 20 years.
At the May 15 city council meeting, council members were presented with a draft of the policy and procedure manual-the set of written rules that governs city employees and their employers.
The city’s policy and procedure manual came under scrutiny in February of last year following a management review by Paul Vazaldua of the McAllen-based consulting firm Vazaldua & Associates. He informed council members the manual had not been updated since March 2000 and, among its many discrepancies, it does not enforce routine drug testing despite the manual calling for drug and alcohol policy for employees and employee evaluations, of which the city does not have records of.
The city’s human resource director, Gerardo Villarreal, made a further look into the manual after he was hired by the city last August and assigned to help draft a new manual.
The draft went through a committee made up by Villarreal, Olivares, the city attorney Gus Acevedo and other department heads before its presentation Tuesday.
“The original manual was lacking,” Villarreal said of the several problems he found in the manual. “It was very open ended and broad and lacked basic things you’d seen in a manual like this such as a definition of the city’s ethics policy, nepotism and even page numbers and a table of content.”
The original manual was around 16 pages and even lacked a written policy on vacation and paid time off as well as a policy on conflicts of interest. According to Villarreal, several of the items that were in the manual were only summarized in a few lines and didn’t give information on how the city should handle any issues.
As an example, Villarreal brought up the manual’s list of “unacceptable actions” that should deter employees from committing any actions “against the best interest of the city and its employees,” according to the manual.
The list, which the manual called “partial”, ranged from actions such as theft, falsification of city records, insubordination but failed to define or give examples of them. The list of unacceptable actions also didn’t mention other actions that are typically standard in a policy and procedure manual, such as sexual harassment.
“Whenever you write up an employee you reference the policy the employee is in violation of, it’s standard practice.” Villarreal said. “But there was so much policy missing in the manual that there was no documentation of write ups or of stated policies used in the write ups we found.”
The updated policy, Villarreal said, is around 70 pages long and gives an in depth extension of many of the policies the original manual was lacking, and even has several additions.
Among the additions is a written policy on paid vacation time, internet and social media usage and conflicts of interest.
Many of the additions to the manual were implemented due to several issues in the city that have come up in the last few months. The written policy for paid vacation time was added after three former city employees- Police Chief Chris Barrera, assistant City Manager David Nacianceno and Palmview Youth Club Director Juan Arevalo, resigned or were fired from the city within the last year.
All three are in negotiations with the city to finalize an agreement to be paid for the vacation time they’ve accrued during their employment, Villarreal said.
Villarreal would not disclose the amount the three former employees are asking for.
“We’re still meeting with them to see how we can pay off these employees,” Villarreal said. “Usually, you learn of what you need to implement in the organization to create policy that prevents this from happening again in the future.”
Once the manual is approved, Villarreal said he plans to follow up every quarter to ensure it remains updated and to hold bi-monthly meetings with employees to go over the policies with them.
“Your policy is the foundation of a business, without it, how can you run it,” Villarreal said. “It helps us and the city be more established and have more guidelines within the city where employees will feel comfortable coming into work.”