HAMMOND — The City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to spend $70,000 to hire a consulting firm to study and recommend improvements to the city’s civil service structure.
The council agreed to hire PMI Resource, of Shreveport, for one year, starting this month.
“It’s no secret that we have been having challenges in our civil service section, and the problems didn’t start with the latest issues before the civil service board,” Mayor Mayson Foster said.
One of those issues involves Jennifer Payne, a Hammond police officer now on paid administrative leave. She complained to the civil service board that her name, address and picture were given to the news media by the Police Department following charges alleging she had been “doctor shopping.” Payne is claiming her right to privacy under civil service law had been violated.
In the wake of that complaint, Police Chief Roddy Devall was placed on paid administrative leave.
David Danel, chairman of the Hammond Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, said Monday the investigation into how the information on Payne was released to the public should be completed by June 30.
The civil service board also agreed to investigate two other cases involving police officers who had complaints about their treatment by police department superiors.
Danel, at Monday’s civil service board meeting, questioned some of the personnel record keeping procedures used by the police and fire departments.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Foster said whenever civil service appeals are made at the state level, Hammond always loses because “we just don’t dot the i’s and cross the t’s properly.”
Mark A. Waniewski, chief executive officer of PMI Resource, said his firm will begin its work in Hammond with a baseline audit of current policies and procedures. He said PMI Resource personnel will also work with Loretta Severain, the city’s personnel administrator, to ensure a smooth working relationship between her office and civil service employees.
Waniewski noted that civil service matters are on a “higher threshold” than those related to other city workers because of state and federal rules and regulations.