NORTH OGDEN — Employees have left this city in record numbers, with 11 employees departing in 2012.
Showing concern and a desire to fix the problem, City Councilman Brent Taylor brought up the issue at a recent city council meeting.
In 2011, no employees departed, and in 2010, two employees left because of retirement.
Taylor pointed out that, in three years, the number of employees terminating their employment with the city has tripled and the city could be looking at a 20 percent turnover rate for the year.
Currently, the city has 58 employees. He said he believed several employees were actively looking for jobs. Also, the employees that left were from key positions — the city manager, finance director, city attorney, a long-time detective and the water supervisor all accepted positions with other cities or government agencies.
“This is an area for improvement,” Taylor said.
During a follow-up interview, Taylor said he doesn’t feel it is an issue with department heads or the mayor, but with the city council.
“Many are leaving because of the working climate in North Ogden right now,” Taylor said. “I think the concerns with the climate are coming from the council.”
Gina Kochendorfer left the North Ogden Police Department as the office manager in September. She now works for Mesquite city under former Finance Director Debbie Cardenas. Kochendorfer became disenfranchised with things in the city last winter when the council started talking about reducing benefits.
“I cannot speak for others, but my personal feelings when I left was that I was useless to the current council,” Kochendorfer said in an email.
She was quick to point out that her departure had nothing to do with the department heads or with Taylor, but with the way the council handled things with employees during the winter of 2012.
“My first doubts were when a few council members wanted to make me pay 10 percent to 20 percent more for my health insurance. I went to the council meeting that night, and one council member denied that was their intent. However, because I read their own emails, which verified their original intent was to make me pay more (it is published in black and white), at that point they were not trustworthy in my eyes,” she said.
Kochendorfer referred to emails obtained by a Government Records Access and Management Act by the Standard-Examiner.
Taylor said he doesn’t feel that trying to establish blame for why employees are leaving is as important as fixing the problem and creating a better work environment. One of his concerns is the money the city spends to train the employees, especially police officers, only to have them leave to work for other cities.
Still rumors swirl regarding employee benefits, including contracting out entire departments to private entities and cutting employees to part-time status, thus eliminating benefits, Kochendorfer said.
Mayor Richard Harris said that topic was an issue for discussion by the Employee Compensation Committee.
“We need to have those kinds of discussions,” Harris said.
City Manager Ron Chandler said in an email that employees are leaving simply for better employment opportunities. The question Taylor wonders is why they should want to look in the first place, he said.
Kochendorfer said she felt frustrated that employees had received no raises in the last two years, despite increases to their benefit premiums.
“How long can good employees go without bettering their family’s quality of life?” she said.
Kochendorfer said she loved working in North Ogden at one time with great co-workers and department heads, but in the current economy people have to do what is best for their families.
Taylor thinks that time is of the essence to make a more positive work environment for employees and that the idea of cutting benefits or hours should not happen.
Other city council members did not respond to emails regarding the subject and did not speak to the issue at the city council meeting.