Patterson council eyes new rules

Mayor Rodney Grogan


The City Council was asked to be prepared to vote on resolutions covering cell phone, credit card and city vehicle usage at the next council meeting by Mayor Rodney Grogan at a council workshop Tuesday.
The workshop was the second in a series of workshops on a revised employee policy and procedure handbook. Grogan wants to have those items tackled without waiting for all the policies of the new handbook to be formulated and approved.
The mayor gave council members copies of ordinances from other cities and several attorney general opinions to help decide how they would like to craft the ordinances and the city’s procedure handbook.
“This is your baby. You decide what you want, but you do not have to recreate anything that has not already been done somewhere else in a tried and proven way,” Grogan said.
Grogan said he wants to limit the number of people who have been issued a credit card. He suggested only two people, the director of public works and the city clerk, be given a card to minimize the risk of abuse.
Credit cards are only needed when making hotel arrangements and in emergencies, Grogan said.
An employee meal during travel does not need to be put on a credit card because the city pays a per diem based on a state schedule, Grogan said. Whatever decision is made, he encouraged including some sort of language that states personal use of the card would not be allowed.
The city has five cards issued to five people. Pam Washington, city clerk, and Steve Bierhorst, public works director, have a card, which they would keep under the mayor’s suggested arrangement. Grogan, Police Chief Patrick LaSalle and City Manager Dave Lowery, have cards that would be destroyed. Under the mayor’s proposed arrangement, one of the two cards could be used by other approved people in an emergency.
Grogan said city policy should clearly state who should have 24 hour access to a vehicle. This includes both on the administrative side of the city as well as the police department.
“We are not law enforcement,” Grogan said indicating that they need to ascertain what the police think they need.
City Attorney Russel Cremaldi followed up the mayor’s comment with an encouragement to talk to the police chief.
Grogan instituted a new policy for city vehicles on Sept. 19 that stated city vehicles are not allowed out of the city limits without his permission unless on “approved official city business. Only city workers living within the city limits will be allowed to drive city-owned vehicles home.”
Each Patterson patrolman had been assigned a unit that was brought home before the policy change. LaSalle said he instituted the “car for man” policy in Patterson as an aid in recruitment as well as crime prevention. He called the change “hasty” and said it would have a “devastating effect” on the police department’s effectiveness and morale. He was disappointed the mayor did not discuss the issue and its ramifications with him before making the change, he said in September.
“I am hoping we can come to some type of arrangement so that we can become the proactive police department we were in the past prior to police cars being taken away,” LaSalle said.
The mayor and council seemed to agree that some department heads, city workers and police officers need personal cellular telephones. But who gets a phone, and how, is an issue they are working on. The two options considered are a city provided phone and service or providing employees a monthly stipend, perhaps $50, and allow them to use their personally purchased phones and plans.
“Yesterday is gone,” Grogan said. “You have a responsibility to the community to put these things in black and white,” he told the council.
The next workshop is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

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