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City: HR restructure, Bartlett agreement unrelated

Posted: January 9, 2014 - 1:09am

The city’s human resources division has been seeing some changes recently. The division, led by Human Resources Director Mila Cosgrove, was upgraded to its own free-standing Human Resource Risk Management Department on Monday when the change was approved by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.

In addition Cosgrove took over human resources at Bartlett Regional Hospital in October through a shared services agreement between the hospital and the city. City Manager Kim Kiefer said the two moves are independent of one another.

“My request to make HR a department is not related to the BRH combined services model,” Kiefer said in an email. “It is something that I have been considering for some time and it happened to come at the same time we started discussing the BRH combined services model. The Assembly has directed me to work with other CBJ entities on shared service models in general... We are always looking for ways to provide services in a more effective and efficient manner.”

The city’s HR division already functioned like a department, Kiefer said in an issue paper on the ordinance establishing the department. It provides services to CBJ governmental departments, Juneau International Airport, Eaglecrest Ski Area, Docks and Harbors, Juneau School District and Bartlett Regional Hospital. Services to Bartlett were recently expanded to complete HR management, per the shared services agreement.

“Local government services are delivered directly by the employees we hire, develop, manage, compensate, and protect,” Kiefer said in the paper. “Our human resources constitute the single largest component of our budget outside of major capital projects. Without an integrated, proactive strategy for human capital management, CBJ is less effective as an organization and therefore, less effective in delivering programs and services to the community we serve.”

Kiefer wanted to “recognize the scope of the Human Resource and Risk Management functions by creating a department,” the paper stated. As a department director rather than a division director, Cosgrove receives a two-step pay increase, per CBJ personnel rules. This will cost the city about $12,000 per year, Kiefer said in an email.

At the Monday Assembly meeting, member Randy Wanamaker said he was concerned that establishing the department was unnecessary and “premature.” He said he was alarmed to find out at a BRH Board of Directors meeting that the hospital plans to reevaluate its human resources management after two years. He said in an interview he wished the city had been up front with the Assembly about this intention, and that if the hospital chooses to end its HR agreement with the city, it could make the free-standing department unnecessary.

“Unless we know this is a permanent arrangement, it’s premature to upgrade from division to department because we don’t know what the workload will be there,” Wanamaker said.

Wanamaker said Cosgrove has done a great job as HR director, but he questions whether the change from division to department is necessary.

“It seems administrative and not that important, but it is, because now they have additional hiring and budgeting authorities and responsibilities,” he said. “It seems to me we’ve been doing fine for years working with a human resources division. To upgrade to a full department, I’m not sure the information presented to us was adequate.”

Kiefer said she first presented her request to upgrade the division to a department at a Nov. 4 Assembly meeting. It was then bounced between the city Finance Committee and the Assembly until it was approved at this week’s meeting. Wanamaker said he didn’t find out that Bartlett intended to study its HR functions over the course of two years and reevaluate at that time until after Kiefer presented her request.

“The information was given to us not as a direct statement but as an indirect statement during one of the Bartlett board president’s comments,” Wanamaker said. “That wasn’t something we were told when the request to form the department was made.”

Kiefer said the department’s existence is not contingent on the hospital’s plans.

“(Human resources) should be a department regardless of the BRH piece,” she said.

Cosgrove began splitting her time — and salary — 50/50 between the city and hospital in October, she said. According to a budget presented at this week’s BRH Executive Committee meeting, Cosgrove is now paid a salary of $55,328 by the city and $55,328 by the hospital, for a total of about $111,000 per year. According to the budget, the hospital’s new HR setup should save the city about $85,000, although staffing is still being finalized and that number could change, Cosgrove said at the committee meeting.

The city’s HR staff is made up of 10 people, Cosgrove said. At Bartlett, she’ll be overseeing an additional four employees. The shared services agreement “should increase administrative and financial efficiencies and result closer alignment between the two organizations,” Kiefer said.

“The work itself doesn’t change, but the scope does,” Cosgrove said.

The Bartlett Board of Directors approached the city to take over the hospital’s HR department after former hospital HR director Norma Adams resigned in September 2013, board President Kristen Bomengen said. The city had helped with HR services during the hiring process of former hospital CEO Christine Harff, she said. Harff resigned from the hospital last fall. The shared services agreement was meant to formalize a relationship that already existed in some capacity with the city, Bomengen said.

“When the HR director left, they reached out,” Cosgrove said. “We tried to find a way to make it work.”

Cosgrove’s position at the hospital does not change the fact that interim hospital CEO Jeff Egbert is in charge of the operation, Kiefer said.

“The CEO still has the authority to approve the staffing structure of the (Bartlett) HR Department, and still has the authority to approve the overall policy direction,” she said.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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