City Councilor Louie Sanchez is tired of wasting taxpayer money on "Unclassified" Employees
By: ABQRAW staff
Posted: 10/26/2022 @ 1:00PM
Today CABQ City Council services sent us the following press release:
October 26, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Councilor Louie Sanchez to Propose Changes Following Internal Audit Report on City Hiring Practices of Unclassified Employees
Councilor to introduce legislation to update the Merit System Ordinance.
Albuquerque, NM – Following the request of City Councilor Louie Sanchez for a special audit, the Office of Internal Audit has released its report on the City’s Hiring Practices Involving Unclassified Employees. The Office of Internal Audit found that in the period of Fiscal Years 2015 (FY15) to 2022 (FY22), the use of unclassified positions has increased 97% from 314 to 620, by far outpacing the increase of 14% increase of City’s full-time, merit-system positions.
“This report makes it clear that changes are needed to our Merit Ordinance and personnel policies to curb these drastic increases prevent further abusive practices,” said Councilor Sanchez. “The report shows that many unclassified positions receive large salaries that may not be justified by job duties and experience. When this practice is so widespread, it threatens the City’s workforce by circumventing a fair, uniform, and transparent selection of the best-qualified employees. When too many positions in the City are filled by political appointees, it also threatens the City’s ability to retain institutional knowledge, and maintain continuity across different Mayoral administrations.”
City employees are divided by unclassified employees and classified employees. Unclassified employees are considered at-will and the positions are not required to advertised or meet any minimum requirements to justify the hire or their pay. Classified employees are entitled to employee protections that help protect them from political retaliation and are hired through an advertised and competitive hiring process that establishes pay bands based on skills and qualifications.
Of the 620 unclassified positions filled during this period, the highest percentages were in the Albuquerque Police Department, the Department of Technology and Innovation, the Albuquerque Community Safety Department, and the Legal Department. The largest was APD, accounting for 209 unclassified positions, including positions in Internal Affairs, police reform, the Real Time Crime Center, and data analysis, due to the continued compliance with the Department of Justice settlement.
From FY15 to FY22, 83 employees moved from classified to unclassified positions and received salary increases ranging from 22 to 368 percent. The report noted that many salaries increase for unclassified employees are not based on job performance nor change in job duties, especially for senior management and deputy director positions.
Of positions audited, job descriptions are found to be non-existent for over half of the unclassified positions, with their salaries totaling $4.3 million. Only 13% of positions tested had verification of the employee meeting requirements for the position. “The inconsistent hiring practices are unfair and negatively impact employee’s ability to advance within a fair and predictable system,” said Councilor Sanchez.
The report from the Office of Internal Audit identifies several factors that might help address the trend, including a classification and compensation study, updates to the Merit Ordinance, increase collection and maintenance of classification details for budget and filled positions, require justifications for pay increases for unclassified employees, and develop policies that ensure pay and job duties for unclassified positions is consistent with classified positions.
“The City’s current compensation structure is long overdue for an update, and the City is taking steps to complete its first classification and compensation study in over twenty years,” said Councilor Sanchez. “However, I will also be focusing on an update to the City’s Merit System Ordinance which itself has not had any significant updates since at least 2010.”
City Councilor Louie Sanchez is committed to addressing these issues and to improving the City’s hiring process so that the City can hire and retain the most qualified workforce while ensuring continuity within City Government.