PARK HILLS – To what degree municipal employees can be involved in political activities is one of the topics to be discussed this evening when the Code Enforcement and Ordinance Committee of the Park Hills City Council meets.
The issue came up publicly last month during a meeting of the council’s Personnel Committee when two situations related to the April municipal election were mentioned.
There were allegations that some city employees campaigned for a candidate running for the city council while they were on duty for the city. It was also stated that a department head encouraged employees to campaign for the candidate.
During the discussion, members said there has to be a balance that does not infringe upon the individual employee’s First Amendment rights while not allowing them to take advantage of their position. There was a consensus that no campaigning should be done while a person is on the clock nor should any city equipment or material be used for political purposes.
The city has an ordinance and personnel policy related to the issue and it will be reviewed at the committee meeting.
Another related matter brought up briefly was the allegation that a city employee was discouraged from filing as a candidate for the council. The employee was reportedly told they had to resign if they filed because it would be a conflict of interest.
At least two officials participating in Personnel Committee meeting said they think it is the right of any citizen of the city to become a candidate. They said the conflict of interest would not develop until the employee is elected and at that point they would have to choose between their job and holding the office.
This evening’s meeting, set for 6 p.m. in the conference room of the Park Hills Depot, also has three other matters on the agenda. They include review of the ordinance making certain records available to members of the council, possible revisions to the city’s procurement procedures, and a review of the fees and procedures involved in the issuance of municipal liquor licenses.
There has been considerable debate over what personnel records the council members should be allowed access to and what information is protected. Under federal and state privacy laws, there is some information that cannot be disclosed without the permission of the individual, according to previous discussions of the issue.
Also a topic of discussion before the current policies were established is where the personnel records should be maintained. The city clerk is the official custodian of such records, but for efficiency reasons, some records had been maintained in the offices of the individual departments.
In addition to the four topics listed on the agenda for the committee meeting, there is a paragraph indicating the committee may go into executive session. That is allowed under state law only for matters regarding litigation, real estate, hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting specific employees.