Mark Flatten

Undisciplined Bureaucracy: The Difficulty in Disciplining a Government Worker

Posted on December 08, 2010 | Type: Investigative Report | Author: Mark Flatten
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Sleeping on duty, threatening co-workers, falsifying documents, rudeness, sexual harassment and poor performance would get you fired from most jobs. But often that’s not the case for a government worker. The Goldwater Institute scoured more than 10,000 pages of documents to expose the shocking difficulty in removing inept workers from taxpayer-funded payrolls in its special investigation “Undisciplined Bureaucracy.”

Goldwater Institute Investigative Reporter Mark Flatten reveals the nightmare of paperwork and delay involved in removing problem government employees. Workers can be placed on leave for months at a time – getting paid their full salaries but not required to do their jobs – while personnel investigations drag on. Even when government workers are fired, they can appeal to independent boards and courts which frequently order them back to work.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Goldwater Institute economist Byron Schlomach offers clear policy changes that could help remove problem government workers and protect your wallet:

  • Change the status of all government employees to at-will employment. A department or agency administrator would make the final decision to discipline or dismiss individual employees, while hurdles to taking action imposed by civil services rules or union contracts would be eliminated. Georgia, Florida, and Texas have successfully adopted at-will employment policies.
  • Strictly limit paid administrative leave to 30 days or less. Overuse of paid leave slows down the resolution of disciplinary investigations as managers have a lack of urgency to bring the issues to a conclusion. A strict limit will prompt managers to return performing employees to their jobs and to quickly remove problem workers from the payroll.
  • Establish a few simple, objective, and measureable standards for employee performance. Such standards would provide clear guidance to determine the quality of an employee’s work and would prevent arbitrary decisions by a supervisor to punish or fire someone.
  • Strengthen Arizona’s whistleblower law. It is already illegal in Arizona to retaliate against an employee whistleblower who reports wrongdoing within a government agency, and employees can be paid for their losses if this occurs. But the potential fine against managers who punish a whistleblower should be raised substantially from the current maximum of $5,000 to encourage compliance.
  • Document personnel actions by supervisors as well as employees and make the records easily available. Actions that supervisors take against their employees should be documented in the supervisors’ own personnel files and made publicly available so management decision patterns can be tracked by employees and investigators. Proper recording and transparency will encourage managers to treat employees responsibly.

Read "Undisciplined Bureaucracy" here

 

Read the sidebar "Discipline Delayed" here

 

 

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