As you’ve likely read in the local paper, Anchorage has been without a fire chief since the mayor nudged Craig Goodrich into retirement last month. When police chief Rob Huen resigned a few weeks later the administration set up a search committee to seek a replacement. Not so with the fire department as the mayor apparently had a successor in mind. And you’d be forgiven for asking who because, other than the name, I have no idea who Mark Hall is. What I do know is that last week the administration submitted an ordinance that would waive two sections of Anchorage Municipal Code in order to clear the way for Mr. Hall to assume the post of fire chief.
The sections in question, 3.30.179 and 3.30.168, read as follows:
3.30.179 Employment of relatives. Executive employees are governed by the standards for employment of relatives found in AMC 3.30.168 and its definition of “relative.”
3.30.168 Employment of relatives.A. Definition. As used in this section,Relative means any person who, by blood, marriage or adoption, including in-laws and step-relatives, is the child, sibling, parent, aunt, uncle, first cousin, grandparent, or grandchild of an applicant or employee and any person who lives in the same household as an applicant or employee.B. Policy. Except as otherwise provided in this section, an applicant who is otherwise qualified may not be denied appointment to a municipal position or continued employment with the municipality because the applicant’s relative is employed by the municipality.C. Prohibitions. The following prohibitions shall be applied and govern in the order listed. No person may be appointed to or continue to be employed in a position in any agency:1. If the appointee or employee is a relative of the agency head or another employee higher than the agency head in the chain of command established by chapters 3.20 or 3.30; or2. If the position will directly supervise or is directly supervised by a relative, provided:a. The director may authorize in writing a temporary appointment to or continued employment in a position directly supervised by a relative, if the director finds the appointment or continued employment is of short duration and no reasonable alternative is available.b. Appointments and continued employment pursuant to this subsection shall be re-evaluated and new findings made by the director not less than every six months3. Who is a relative of the appointing authority and who is or would be in the same chain of command as the appointing authority unless the appointment or continued employment is first approved in writing by the agency head and the director, provided:a. With respect to new appointments of either current or new employees, the director must first determine that the appointment or continued employment is not likely to adversely affect or unduly impair or conflict with the efficient functioning of the agency, the chain of command, work product, work product review or approval, work place morale, supervisory or lead responsibilities in the agency, shift or work assignments, or other relevant or material job related factors.b. With respect to continued employment not involving any appointment, the director must first determine that the continued employment will more than likely not adversely affect or unduly impair or conflict with the efficient functioning of the agency, the chain of command, work product, work product review or approval, work place morale, supervisory or lead responsibilities in the agency, shift or work assignments, or other relevant or material job related factors.4. Who is a relative of any other employee in the municipality, if the director and the agency head have determined in writing that a potential conflict of interest exists with: a) the work product, b) work product review or approval, or c) other relevant or material job related factors of the affected employees.D. Re-evaluations. The director may, at any time, re-evaluate the effects of a relationship described in subsections C.3 or C.4. of this section on the performance of an employee and the operation of the agencies involved. The director shall reevaluate the relationship described subsections C.3. and CA. of this section if requested by a department head or if an affected employee is promoted, demoted, or transferred.E. Corrective action. Subject to the provisions of subsection D. and this subsection, the director may correct appointments and continued employment prohibited by subsection C. of this section by transfer, layoff, demotion or termination of employment.1. The director shall take such corrective action under subsection E. of this section which has the least adverse impact on the employees necessary to cure the prohibited appointment or continued employment, provided such corrective action shall always be in the best interests of the municipality.2. An employee who creates a relationship subject to subsection C. of this section shall be subject to transfer, layoff, demotion or termination of employment only when the director determines such to be necessary in the best interests of the municipality.F. Applicants and employees with relatives in the same agency as the applicant or employee or applicants and employees with a relative covered by subsection C. of this section, shall timely disclose to the director:1. The names and relationship to the reporting employee or applicant of all relatives in the employ of the municipality and its agencies, including the existence of such relationships not previously reported;2. The creation of a relationship which results in another employee becoming a relative of the reporting applicant or employee together with the other employee’s name and relationship; and3. Any change in the information required to be provided under this subsection F.
The membership of the Anchorage Home Builders Association is supporting Mark Hall for the position of Fire Chief of Anchorage. Mark brings years of experience and professionalism to this position and would be a great addition to the city of Anchorage. Our membership has worked with Mark in the past and finds his practical solution to problems to be very effective.
No, according to an e-mail I received (I’ve received some other, similar messages as well):
Rules are in place to choose a new department head (fire chief). Those rules should not be changed in order to make a particular appointment. The rules were implemented due to the history of problems with relatives working under or with each other. I agree that the mayor can choose the candidate he favors, as long as they meet the qualifications of the position. Please don’t change the rules.
The ordinance does provide conditions for the waiver, such as precluding Mr. Hall from directly supervising his nephews and providing for the Municipal Manager and Employee Relations Director to review the employment relationship at least once every six months, but will that work? Representatives from the firefighters union have indicated they have no objection to Mr. Hall serving as chief but I wonder if employees who knew about the semi-annual review might use that process improperly (not that anyone would do such a thing with ethics laws)? And, by the way, is this approach even legal? (I’ve asked for more information on that subject.)
For me, it would be nice to hear a little more about Mr. Hall and what it is about his background that provides a compelling reason to set aside the aforementioned sections of code. It would also be nice to hear your thoughts so feel free to share!
Copyright - Patrick Flynn, All Rights Reserved