Aug. 31 2010 12:00 AM

Job training: How long does it take to replace a City Hall veteran?

A contentious contract agreement between the city and a former city employee was scheduled for approval at Monday night’s City Council meeting, but it was put on hold after two Council members and another employee expressed concern about its terms.

City Council legislative office manager Terese Horn’s last day at City Hall was Friday, and the contract that was scheduled for approval Monday night would have kept her on for another year as a temporary employee, working no more than 40 hours per week at about $29 per hour. Horn would also have received her pension and retiree benefits on top of the hourly wage.

At-Large Council members Brian Jeffries and Carol Wood were concerned about the contract because it might be “double-dipping” into city funds as well as alleged “golden parachute” into retirement.

Council President A’Lynne Robinson said this is not a case of double dipping, and the real reason for keeping Horn under contract as a temp was to take the time to train her replacement. She also said that Horn has earned and paid into her pension and retiree benefits throughout her career with the city. The hourly wage would come out of the general fund.

Horn has more than 25 years’ experience at the job, which carries supervisor duties that City Council principal clerk Danielle Stubbs and administrative secretary Diana Bitely are not able to carry out.

Stubbs spoke in opposition of the contract during the meeting’s public comment period. She called the contract “double dipping” and thinks Horn should not be able to keep a city-issued cell phone, parking pass and credit card. Stubbs also said she “has a problem” reporting to a contract employee, even though she reported to that same employee as of last week.

Stubbs expressed frustration that she has had to take furlough days and that she’d “love to get a contract with the city too.” She hoped Horn and the Council would not take her comments personally or hold them against her negatively.

Jeffries’ moved to table the contract indefinitely, which was backed by five other Council members, with Robinson and At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney dissenting.

So what will happen now with the work that Horn was doing? “Nothing. There is a coverage problem now,” Robinson said, referring to the two options the city faces: hire an outside employee or have the Council vote to promote Bitely or Stubbs. Either way, Robinson said they need to “bridge that gap” between Horn’s experience and training a replacement.

Finance Director Jerry Ambrose gave three or four months as a rough estimated time for training a replacement, adding that it’s definitely not something you can do in a couple of weeks.

In other business, the Council passed four ordinances that rezone properties in the city.

  • Originally intended for commercial use, two 1,500 square-foot buildings at 2925 and 2935 N. East St. will be rezoned to allow mixed-use development, permitting homes and offices on the property.

  • Similar to the East Street rezoning, 1301 E. Miller Road also will become a residential and office use mix from light industrial.

  • A residential-to-industrial rezoning at 717 E. Shiawassee St. will give impetus to Neogen Corp. to expand its operation in Lansing.

  • Overlay districts were established in Old Town and REO Town and portions of East Michigan Avenue and West Saginaw Street. These areas will encourage developments close to the street and parking in back. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko offered to not vote on this ordinance, citing a potential conflict of interest. Her job at the NorthWest Initiative involved discussions with getting the overlay districts established. While Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar said that wouldn’t be necessary, First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt said there was a clear conflict of interest and followed through on the motion to block Yorko’s vote.

All four ordinances passed unanimously and go into effect immediately.

A few Labor Day reminders include no City Council meeting or citywide trash collection Monday. Ambrose said Monday’s scheduled trash collection will move to Tuesday.