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Brainerd City Council: Brainerd council considers hiring policy

A policy discussion Monday had Brainerd council members considering if more hiring oversight was better management or micromanagement.

The council committees met and talked about the issue separately before reporting back to the council session. At issue was a suggested policy change on who would be involved in hiring decisions and if the council members should be more involved earlier in the process.

In a January memo to the council, Mary Koep, council president, said she believed a policy was needed to guide the hiring process for non-department head employees excluding fire and police employees. In her memo, Koep said the current policy of having department heads interview the employees they will supervise “makes a mockery of the law, asking only that the council ‘rubber stamp’ a decision they have no part in.”

Koep asked the issue be placed on the Feb. 21 agenda. The personnel and finance committee reviewed the issue at its meeting prior to the regular council session Monday and offered a recommendation to not change its current policy.

In a memo to the council, Administrator Dan Vogt said his reading of Koep’s draft policy is “a desire by the council president to inject more city council involvement into the hiring process of non-department heads.”

Vogt informed the council in the memo that staff knows the city council makes the final decision on hiring and staff provides recommendations to the council.

“It also needs to be stated that my job duties as city administrator includes overseeing the selection of employees and to act as the final authority on personnel actions subject to the approval of the city council on hiring.”

Vogt stated the city’s current hiring practice is sufficient.

“It is my strong belief that government should be as nimble as possible and the adoption of restrictive policies for more and more aspects of our operation will not allow us to carry out the duties of the city as efficiently as necessary,” Vogt wrote. “It is also my feeling that the proposed policy will just slow the hiring process down rather than making it more efficient if periodic reports to the council are required before we move forward with various aspects of hiring employees.”

Vogt pointed to the creation of the human resources coordinator position years ago, saying it has made for consistent and efficient handling of employee hiring.

At the personnel committee meeting, council member Dale Parks said the council has the ability to raise questions and department heads are hired to make those decisions.

“I just feel the city council shouldn’t micromanage the staff,” Parks said.

Parks said he would be voting against if it came to a vote. Kevin Goedker said the council should be informed of interviews but he didn’t know if the city had to go as far as having a policy right now.

If the council proceeded with a policy, Vogt presented suggestions on it. Suggestions included: being flexible about which staff members could conduct interviews; providing critical dates on interviews and the date recommendations for hiring will be made to the council; having department heads or the HR coordinator review applications following the law.

Vogt said in hiring a building inspector, he was apprehensive about elected officials reviewing applications as he didn’t think this followed the legal requirements but allowed it to avoid a conflict. In the future, Vogt said he will be more conservative and will not review all applications with elected officials. Data for those selected for an interview will be available with private information removed, Vogt reported.

Personnel and Finance Committee Chair Bonnie Cumberland said she had some of the same concerns about flexibility and timing in making decisions. Maybe when Vogt retires at some point that would be the time to look at a policy, when a new person is brought in, Cumberland said. She said there are options in certain areas to have council members more involved, such as attending employee interviews or designating a resident who may have expertise in a particular area. Cumberland said she does worry about data privacy and potential open meeting law concerns.

“When it comes down to it, the council still has the final say,” Goedker said.

Cumberland said the salary and benefits package information is being presently clearly and the council still has the final decision on wages. The committee voted 3-0 to recommend keep the practice as is and agreed to talk to the Safety and Public Works Committee about the issue.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852