Agenda — June 1, 2005
9:30 a.m.—-Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room
I. Call to Order
II. Welcome Guests & Members of the Press
III. Opening Remarks
IV. Special Presentation: Shelley Green on Employee Appreciation Week
V. Human Resources Update
• Laurie Charest, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources
VI. Chair’s Report, Executive Committee (Tommy Griffin) & Committee Reports
• Personnel Issues: David Brannigan
• University Assignments: Tom Arnel
• Career Development: Leon Hamlett
• Communications: Brian White
–> Forum Newsletter
• Community Affairs, Recognition and Awards: Debbie Galvin
• Employee Presentations: Ernie Patterson
• Nominating: Patti Prentice
–> Forum Elections
• Orientation: Meredith Clason
VII. Minutes of the April 6, May 5 meetings
VIII. New Business
IX. Stretch Time
XI. “Around the Room”/Employee Presentations
XII. Task Force/University Committee Reports
June 1, 2005 Minutes
Chair Tommy Griffin called the meeting to order at 9:34 a.m. He welcomed assorted delegates, guests and members of the press. He also welcomed Human Resources officials Corey Parker, Linc Butler, Gena Carter, Claire Miller and Matt Brody, among others. He also welcomed University Gazette editor Gary Moss and his incoming replacement, Lee Kennedy.
The Chair hoped that delegates were working to fill out postcards to send to the Legislature. He said that these kinds of activities are useful to keep Employee issues before the attention of state legislators.
Shelley Green spoke about the activities of Employee Appreciation week, to take place October 10-14. This year, the week will focus on health and wellness and will feature several nutrition contests and fitness events at the Student Recreation Center. University Day takes place October 12 and the University will hold educational sessions and walking tours of campus. Green asked that Employees consider volunteering for the planning committees sponsoring this event. Interested volunteers could contact her at 2-1483. Tom Arnel asked if these activities will count as work time and Green said that they do with the approval of one’s supervisor.
Human Resources Update
Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Laurie Charest passed out a corrected copy of the Employee emergency loan report. She apologized for forwarding another copy to the Chair that contained some personal information about Employees. She hoped that the real success story of the emergency loan program would come through as since October 2004 the University has approved 102 new loans for Employees. The enormous rush for loans has since stabilized as the program has loaned out all $25,000 available. Now, as money is repaid some funds are again available to be loaned out again. Charest thanked Shelley Green, Susan Crescenzo, and Betsi Snipes for making the logistics of this program work.
Charest noted that the Office of State Personnel will require all Employees to fill out a form declaring any jobs they currently hold outside the State as secondary employment. Currently, any second jobs must not interfere with the Employees’ State duties and must not create a conflict of interest with these duties. Now, Employees must fill out a form annually or when their employment status changes.
These forms are considered public information and go into effect July 1. Supervisors must submit forms for the first time by July 15. Forms are available on the Human Resources web site and will require an Employee signature. This new requirement applies to SPA Employees only as EPA Employees must already comply with two policies governing conflict of interest and external activities for pay. The new SPA policy mirrors those for EPA Employees.
Charest reminded Employees that SPA performance appraisals were due May 30. Supervisors now have a new principal function holding them responsible to support the learning and development activities of their Employees.
The University’s annual summer blood drive will take place Tuesday June 7 in the Dean Smith Athletic Center (Dean Dome).
Charest distributed a flier describing in additional detail the proposed pilot health program, printed from the UNC Office of the President web site. She thought it important for the Forum to study whether the plan will be an improvement for University Employees and she urged delegates to study the document carefully. The document gives detail on the expected costs of premiums and other aspects of the new health plan initiative. She understood that the Forum would consider a resolution on the UNC System health care initiative later in the meeting. She and Katherine Graves would take the Forum’s feedback to the health initiative task force at its weekly conference call.
Ernie Patterson asked if the secondary employment report forms apply only to jobs for which an Employee receives a W2 income declaration form. Charest said that Employees should indicate any jobs for which they receive pay, not including volunteer jobs.
Charest said that her office had asked the Office of State Personnel (OSP) for a more complete definition of “gainful employment.” Patterson noted that his mountain farm has lost money every year so far. Would OSP consider this employment gainful? Charest said that OSP had good intentions to alleviate conflict of interest situations. Patterson thought this was a standard overreaction by OSP to another agency at which problems existed.
David Brannigan asked about the background of this policy. Charest said that Human Resources would try to make the policy as unobtrusive as possible. Supervisors cannot disallow second employment without Human Resources review, since the University does not want inappropriate disallowal of outside employment.
Charest recalled that last year, state employees who owned land that was considered as the site for a possible prison worked to put that site at the top of the State’s purchase list, an obvious conflict of interest situation that the employees did not report. After this event, OSP felt it had to do something to respond to future conflicts of interest situations. Previously, conflict of interest situations have been self-monitored. Brannigan confirmed that this policy originates with OSP rather than the State Legislature. Charest said this was so but inferred that OSP was responding to legislative pressures in the wake of the prison land scandal by implementing this new policy.
Sarah Causey asked how the state employees in question profited from the sale of their own land. Charest said the land was sold to the State for an inflated value due to the plans to build a prison there. The employees profited from the State’s decision to buy land there.
Patterson commented that the new secondary employment reporting policy would not have caught this ethical violation. Charest agreed and thought that the new policy was an enormous overreaction. She said that the University has never been concerned with Employees’ outside employment as long it does not interfere with one’s primary job. Instead, she thought the plan would create a massive administrative headache. Moreover, she thought that Employees would inadvertently fail to update their status when they take a second job. She said that Employees who hold second, third and fourth jobs will not like the plan one bit. She also said that it was not the intention of the University to entrap people under the policy.
Katherine Graves asked what would happen if Employees do not fill out the forms. Charest said that the University would not search for violators, but Employees who intentionally do not fill out the form and are discovered are subject to disciplinary action. Human Resources does not have the time, resources or desire to study these forms for violations, Charest said, but is required to maintain and collect these records by OSP.
Brannigan said that many Employees had been upset to learn of the policy on short notice. They considered it an invasion of their privacy and were doubly incensed to learn about it a week before implementation. He asked when the University officially learned about the reporting requirement. Charest said that the University had known about it a while but she did not have an official date of communication. Human Resources had spent some time trying to get clarification from the Office of State Personnel (OSP) about policy details. The policy had just emerged through the University cabinet a week and a half ago. Charest said that the University had fought the policy change but had not had input into the draft of the policy. She noted that other State agencies have required this kind of reporting for years but said that the University had always refused to collect this information.
Brenda Denzler recalled that the people who owned the land considered for purchase by the State for the prison served on the committee responsible for selecting building sites. She asked whether these employees were not always under a duty to declare conflicts of interest. Charest agreed that this was the case. Denzler asked why these people were on the site selection committee in the first place. Charest said that no one knew of their conflict, which has become the reason for the reporting requirement now.
Ernie Patterson asked what happens to the paper forms that Employees will send to Human Resources. Charest said that the department will file them. Patterson asked if Human Resources will create a statistical summary of details. Charest said that Human Resources anticipates receiving requests from the State to report how many secondary employment forms it has on file. Human Resources does not intent to develop a database from the information. She recalled that state officials have already asked the University to report how many secondary employment forms it has received even before the policy was to take effect. Patterson suggested noting how many Employees must hold second jobs to make a living. Charest said that this ability to quantify how many Employees must hold second jobs, illustrating the financial struggles of lower-paid Employees, represents the only small light in this dark tunnel.
Chuck Brink said that some supervisors might use this requirement as a tool to bully their Employees. He had a supervisor bring this possibility to his attention just recently. Charest said that there are a number of concerns about the form being used a tool to discipline Employees unfairly, possibly to the point that the supervisor might require the Employee to stop working a second job. She said that the University must comply with OSP policy. Keith Fogleman commented he wished he had the chance to sell land to the State at any price.
Michael McQuown asked if the State’s attorney general had any position on this question. Charest said that most indications are that these forms are public records. McQuown asked if this meant that anyone can legally request a copy of these forms.
David Brannigan commented that because of the poverty wages the University still pays, many Employees must hold second jobs. He said that these Employees will feel vulnerable to supervisor manipulation of the kind Chuck Brink had mentioned earlier. He suggested that the policy bypass supervisory consideration of these forms and rather forward them straight on to Human Resources files. He said that immediate supervisors have no need to know about secondary employment unless problems arise. Charest responded that the University policy administrator Chris Chiron was not present to comment on this idea. She said that the University had tried not to include supervisors in this chain but that this idea did not meet OSP policy requirements. However, she said that she would double-check the suggest with Chiron.
Ernie Patterson elaborated on Brannigan’s suggestion, adding that Human Resources generalists could handle the processing and submission of these forms. Charest said that Human Resources wanted to remove this process farther from supervisors to avoid any possibilities that supervisors would automatically disapprove all secondary employment. She said that Human Resources would make sure a real conflict exists before any secondary employment is vetoed.
Claire Miller volunteered that Employees could contact their Human Resources generalists to insure that nothing to do with these forms is done in an arbitrary way. Brink emphasized the point that in spite of Human Resources’ efforts to be fair, the potential still exists for individual supervisors to misinterpret or abuse this situation.
Charest said that her office was aware and very concerned about the prospects for abuse. She said that supervisors should not take the position that they can command Employees to quit their secondary jobs and she would be surprised if any supervisors pursued this path. Obviously, if an Employee holds a job which overlaps schedules with their University employment, some adjustment must occur. Ironically, an Employee intentionally holding a conflict of interest situation would not honestly respond to these forms in any case. She bemoaned the effect on morale and added paperwork that the secondary employment reporting policy will create.
Once again, Charest emphasized that the University will not work to ferret out Employees holding second jobs. Katherine Graves asked about the case of a groundskeeper who also holds employment with a large landscaping company. She wondered if this situation might result in a conflict of interest problem. Charest thought that this situation would not result in a problem as long as schedules and responsibilities were kept separate.
Moving to other topics, Charest said that Donna Bryant has assumed the position as chair of the EPA non-faculty grievance committee. Elaine Phelps has assumed the Benefits Program administrative director position. Phelps boasts a sixteen-year record with benefits program management in the public and private sectors.
The Chair noted that the Forum continues to hold video conferences with other UNC System institutions. In a recent conversation, SEANC legal counsel Tom Harris confirmed that secondary employment reporting requirement was legal but said that employees could consider a legal challenge if they saw fit.
The Chair noted that Matt Brody is an active member of the payday consolidation committee.
The Chair reported that the Board of Trustees had held a productive meeting this month. He said that legislative deliberations about closing the Horace Williams airport continue to dominate the Carolina North planning discussions. He noted that many departments will be able to return from off-campus positions as the Carolina North site is developed.
Additionally, the Chair noted that the University has taken on the task to develop affordable housing for Employees following the breakdown of the Winmore housing development. He praised University leaders for their persistence in realizing this project and noted that any plan would take a while to move through the planning and permit stages.
This month, the Chair completed University training to become a certified mediator. He noted that the upsurge in grievance panel volunteers boded well for the work of the new University ombudsoffice. He recognized Wayne Blair and Laurie Mesibov. Elaine Karvazy asked the length of the mediator certification process and the Chair said that it lasts through three eight-hour sessions. He said that the University plans to offer training in the spring and fall of each year. Ellen Stark Hill remarked on the good mediation training offered by the Mediation Center in Carrboro. Laurie Charest said that Human Resources will hold mediation training this October.
David Brannigan noted that Facilities Services director Jim Alty had recently instituted a practice of standing in for the respondent in Facilities Services grievance procedures. He also noted that Facilities Services grievance panels typically do not feature Facilities Services personnel of the same pay grade or position as the grievant.
Charest said that the University grievance procedure typically disqualifies from panel service personnel from the grievant and respondent’s departments, to avoid possibilities of bias. Brannigan thought that a Facilities Services Employee would have a better chance to understand situation facing line workers in that department, particularly from grounds, housekeeping or other skilled craft or service/maintenance positions. He thought that the University should re-examine this policy of disqualifying certain Employees from panel service. The Chair granted the point that sometimes it helps to have a friendly face from one’s own department during a grievance procedure. He hoped the ombudsoffice would do a lot to reduce grievances as much as possible.
Charest noted that the grievance process allows support people who should help the grievant feel more comfortable during the session. She said that someone could recruit a support person from within their department. Brannigan said that higher-level administrators serving on grievance panels will not likely comprehend the difficulties faced by Employees serving in grounds, housing and other service divisions.
Brannigan also noted that Facilities Services directory Jim Alty had chosen to serve as the grievance respondent. The support person to the grievant cannot speak in grievance hearings as a matter of policy. Thus, a housekeeper likely will have to speak one-on-one against the director of Facilities Services, something Brannigan saw as a huge imbalance of power. He said that Alty’s standing in for the original respondent crreated a very unbalanced situation. Charest said that the University relies on grievance panel chairs to make sure that power or position are not used improperly. She said that panel chairs have discretion in these matters but granted that people may still feel concern. Keith Fogleman, while respecting Alty’s willingness to work side-by-side with Facilities Services Employees, said that his presence might dampen expression in these meetings.
A delegate said that Brannigan’s assumption that an Employee who does not work in Facilities Services line positions could not understand the work situation and dilemmas of these positions was wrong. She said that she had worked ten years with these Employees and thought that she would be well-suited to serve and judge fairly on these panels. Brannigan said that he had posited a potential bias among Employees who do not serve in line positions and thus might lack the empathy for the daily experiences of these people.
Michael McQuown reported a situation of a Level 3 grievance in which the chair and support person had held conversations of an improper nature. He thought that the grievance process still has a built-in bias to decide for the respondent. He thought Brannigan’s concerns were well-founded.
The Chair suggested that the Personnel Issues committee discuss this question in more detail.
Tom Arnel, chair of the University Assignment committee, noted that the group had plans to update the page of University committees. The committee also planned to ask others to volunteer to serve. He noted the committee had placed two Employees on the performance management review board and one on a service award committee. The committee has requests for one Forum delegate on a State Employees incentives bonus review committee. Interested delegates can fill out an interest form on the Forum website.
Leon Hamlett, chair of the Career Development committee, said that the group was still seeking ways to improve the tuition waiver program but these require legislative changes. The committee is making its services available to counsel Employees seeking advice but he said that responses have been very slow. The Chair noted that the House has taken up a bill to increase the number of tuition waived classes for Employees from two to three a year. Charest said that different versions of the bill are still alive this session.
Brian White, chair of the Communications committee, said that the group would complete the annual insert in the University Gazette by the end of the month. The insert will feature in the July issue of the Gazette. Additionally, the June issue of InTouch should be published at the end of the month.
Ernie Patterson, chair of the Employee Presentations committee, said that the group was still trying to set a date with John Edwards for a fall community meeting. Additionally, Patterson asked delegates to attend a postcard signing party at 5 p.m. one evening after work. He also asked for donations to purchase stamps. The Chair thanked Patterson for all of his hard work on this project.
Patty Prentice, chair of the Nominating committee, said that the group would begin soon with its process to elect new delegates for 2005. She asked for more delegate help on the committee. Additionally, Prentice said that the committee was considering asking Employees to sign their ballots to insure that each Employee was voting only once. The committee will work from an Employee roster generated on June 30 depicting Employee addresses and electoral divisions.
Prentice outlined the nominating and election process for delegates. The process culminates in the announcement of newly elected delegates at the Forum’s October meeting.
Meredith Clason, chair of the Orientation committee, said the group had explored alternative venues for the October orientation and January annual retreat. She said that the group will hold the October event in the north box of the Kenan football stadium October 11 and will hold the annual retreat in the Friday Center on either the second or third Friday of January, 2006.
David Brannigan, chair of the Personnel Issues committee, said that the group would discuss making presentations to John Edwards at the Forum’s fall community meeting. He hoped that these presentations could form the basis of a two-way dialogue with the head of the University Center on Work, Poverty and Opportunity. Additionally, the committee will work on a best practices resolution and will ask University ombuds officers to advise the committee on the creation of this resolution.
At this point, the Forum took a five minute stretch time break.
The Forum heard a motion from Chuck Brink to approve the May Forum meeting minutes, seconded by Keith Fogleman. The motion was approved without opposition. Forum Assistant Matt Banks said that he would have the April minutes prepared for the Forum’s July meeting..
Ombudsman Wayne Blair took a moment to encourage Employees to apply for the administrative position in that office. He noted that the office must keep confidentiality in matters but at the same time sought to increase the public profile of the office. The ombudsoffice is located at 134 East Franklin Street in the alley across from the Carolina Coffee Shop.
The Chair said that the building commission resolution would be put on hold due to the need for additional information.
The Chair read a resolution endorsing the proposal for a UNC System pilot health plan. He said that many of the fifteen other UNC System institution staff organizations have approved similar resolutions and he urged the Forum to suspend its rules and consider the resolution on second reading today. He said that waiting until July to vote on the resolution would be too late.
Chuck Brink said that the Forum had not discussed the provisions in the UNC pilot proposal. He did not want the Forum to rubber-stamp the proposal without sufficient discussion. The Chair said that information describing the proposal had been on-line for several months. Brink said that the Forum needed to discuss the specifics of the proposal first before approval.
Katherine Graves said that the resolution would support the Legislature granting the University authority to establish a policy. What is written on the website today may not be the final draft of the proposal, as the health care task force continues to respond to comments from Employees.
Brink asked if all fifteen other university staff organizations have endorsed the pilot proposal. The Chair said that at least ten other organizations have endorsed the proposal, with others meetings later this month.
Curtis Helfrich moved to suspend the rules and consider the resolution on second reading, seconded by Ernie Patterson.
David Brannigan asked what exactly the resolution would support, given the many different drafts of the pilot health plan. He asked what was the time frame driving immediate consideration of the proposal. The Chair said that the Legislature was considering two bills for further consideration in the latter stages of the legislative session. If these bills are tabled, the proposal will die for this session.
Brink asked why the resolution had not been vetted by the Personnel Issues committee. The Chair noted that not all resolutions have to go through that committee.
Ernie Patterson said that the legislative bill would give UNC permission to develop its own proposed health care plan. He said that without permission from the Legislature, the University System cannot move forward with these plans to improve the State health plan for its employees.
Graves said that Employees should contact health care proposal representatives like herself to provide their opinions about the proposal details. She said that the group continues to hold conference calls with all sixteen campuses about developments and recommendations. Graves said that Employees will see increases in their insurance through the State plan in any event. She noted that some Employees have insured their children through Blue Cross/Blue Shield but noted that Blue Cross will drop needy patients from their plan if they prove overly expensive. She thought that the UNC initiative presented a good chance to improve on the State plan.
Ellen Hill confirmed that endorsing the resolution would not endorse a particular policy, but rather would endorse enabling of the UNC System to go ahead with its plans. Brink worried that Employees would see an increase in their premiums if the proposal was passed. Other delegates said that the State plan will increase premiums this year no matter the Legislature’s action on the UNC initiative.
Helfrich called the question, seconded by Tom Arnel. The motion to end debate was approved 23-1.
The motion to suspend the rules and consider the UNC health plan proposal resolution on second reading was approved 19-4, with one abstention.
Patty Prentice made a motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Sarah Causey. Penny Ward asked if anyone had made a copy of House Bill 775 or Senate Bill 741 for delegates’ perusal. Graves said that delegates can find a copy of the bills at www.northcarolina.edu She said that the bills give the UNC System permission to develop and implement a seven year plan that would not take effect until 2007.
Estzer Karvazy asked if Graves had any details about the specifics of the bill. Graves referred Karvazy to the handout distributed earlier in the meeting. Karvazy said that she desired a comparison of specific plan qualities under the State plan and the UNC initiative. Graves said that she did not have this information. Graves did note that premiums would drop under the plan for Employees with children from $428/month under the State plan to $375/month under the UNC initiative. A special Employee and spouse option offered by the UNC initiative would cost only $253/month. The State plan currently does not offer a different, lower-cost option Employee and spouse coverage.
Karvazy said that she still wanted more detailed information about specific procedures and coverages under the UNC initiative. David Brannigan said that the bills represented a enabling legislation that would allow the UNC initiative to develop premiums structures and cost figures. However, it could not proceed without legislative permission. He offered that the Personnel Issues committee could take on study of these specific options once the enabling legislation was approved. The Chair noted that the UNC system could not send out bids for the proposal without permission from the Legislature.
Tom Arnel called the question, seconded by Curtis Helfrich. The vote to end discussion was approved with one abstention.
The motion to approve the resolution on second reading received unanimous support. The Chair thanked members for their cooperation on this question. He said that he would communicate details about the specifics of the UNC initiative as soon as they become available.
The Chair reminded members of the video conference with other UNC System institutions taking place June 10 at Peabody Hall. He also reminded members of the Provost Vice Chancellor meeting to take place June 2.
Katherine Graves noted that the computer loan task force had loaned laptops to all fifteen of the twenty basic clerical skills participants who asked for this resource. She thanked Felicia Perry of Human Resources for her help in making these computers available. In addition, the loan program will have another ten more laptops available to Employees of pay grade 61 or less. Graves said that she had very much enjoyed the experience of working with the computer loan program. She noted that people across campus have begun to use these laptops in coordination with other training programs to improve their personal skills.
David Brannigan asked that the Forum approve a motion recognizing the concerns of Employees across campus about the reporting requirement for secondary employment. This motion would further ask the Personnel Issues committee and the Forum to work with UNC-Chapel Hill Human Resources to communicate Employee concerns to the Office of State Personnel.
The Chair said that this motion would not be officially binding upon the Forum but would serve in a similar way as a “sense of the Senate” proclamation. The Forum approved the motion by voice vote.
Camilla Crampton urged the Forum to follow more closely its rules of having two readings of resolutions. She thought that the practice of suspending the rules to approve resolutions at one meeting indicated that the Forum needed to get its act together to adhere to its own policies. The Chair agreed but said that sometimes the Forum needed to act immediately to deal with pressing concerns. Crampton said that the suspension of the rules process had occurred too many times recently. The Chair said that sometimes he had not received communication on pressing questions until late. Karvazy said that she shared Crampton’s concern.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 11:29 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary