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Rushford reverses decision due to grievance

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Mar 15th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Government

The on-going debate over staffing needs within Rushford’s Public Works department is on again. Public Works had long lobbied for staff member Curt Courrier’s 36-hour per week position to be transitioned to full-time, based on increasing workload within the department and that the position was budgeted to be full-time in 2013. Public Works director Jeff Copley, supported by Mayor Chris Hallum, noted the city could afford to keep Courrier on staff particularly in lieu of upcoming projects, but some members of the council denied the need. Councilor Vern Bunke has long stated that the department has shown no accountability of time or proof of need.

Last December, the council had agreed to continue the part-time position through the end of March 2013. At the February 25 council meeting, Bunke led a motion to terminate the part-time employment of Courrier, effective March 29. The motion passed, in a 3 to 2 vote, by Bunke and Councilors Robert Dahl and Roger Colbenson.

On March 6, Local 1944 filed two grievances with the city based on this decision. The union cited two applicable violations; the first in relation to seniority and the second to discipline and discharge. Both violations called for an adjustment of reinstatement of Courrier and to “make Employee whole.” Essentially, this means employees are generally treated as though they never left their position. The grievances also requested that the city rescind “improper lay-off” and remove all references of termination from Courrier’s personnel file.

According to City Clerk Kathy Zacher, the paperwork first went to Public Works Director Jeff Copley, who was required to sign off on the document stating there was no action he could take. The paperwork then went to City Administrator Steve Sarvi to take to council for direction. These grievance procedures are intended to allow the resolution of complaints, timely and cost-effectively, before they may result in litigation.

The council discussed the matter in closed session Monday, March 11, following the end of regular business during the council meeting. It was closed under attorney/client privilege to discuss arbitration litigation strategy. Following the closed session, the regular meeting was reopened and City Attorney Terry Chiglo provided a recap of the general discussion before asking the council to take action on the issue.

After discussion, a motion was made to remove termination language and direct Administrator Sarvi to use corrective language in a memo for the employee’s file. A second motion directed and authorized Sarvi to reinstate Courrier effective April 1 through December 31, 2013 at 36 hours per week, with no overtime. Pro-rated benefits will also be provided per the contract. According to Clerk Zacher, all of these were terms of Courrier’s employment prior to the council’s February 25 decision.

In other news, Rushford is proceeding with the completion of Phase II of a soil study on a lot prior to a potential sale of that lot for a motel. Braun Intertec has completed the Phase I study and soil analysis and is recommending the second phase be completed due to potential contamination that may exist at the site. The cost of the study is $11,150. The lot, located west of the fire hall, is the proposed site of the Rushford Inn, a motel development by John & Eileen Loken, of Houston.

The city has approved the recommendation of the Ambulance Director Search Committee to appoint Lynn Humble to the position of Ambulance Director, effective March 12. The decision follows the resignation last month of long-time director Julie Scuderio. After a thorough review of applications and conducted interviews, the council unanimously approved the selection. Humble has diligently served with the ambulance service, as an EMT, for 29 years.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, March 25, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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