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Rockville finally moves forward on HR director

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Published on: Thursday, January 24, 2013

By Christa Puccio

ROCKVILLE – The City of Rockville posted two requests for proposals (RFPs) for executive search firms this week – one to fill the human resources (HR) director role, and the other for the director of parks and recreations.

“We put up an executive search firm RFP for both because we figure there would be a more specialized search firm for HR and one for Parks but who knows,” said Jonathan Pierson, CPM, Contract Specialist for the City of Rockville.  “There could be one for both, but I think that’s highly unlikely.”

According to the RFP posted on the Department of Finance’s Purchasing Division website, the HR director is responsible for staffing and recruitment; employee health and wellness; employee learning, performance and development; personnel policies and procedures; labor and employee relations; and safety and risk management.  The director of recreation and parks position is responsible for “a wide range of services, including: diverse recreation activities for all ages and interest groups; maintenance of over 900 acres of City parks and open space; planning, construction, and maintenance of all City facilities; planning of the City’s special events; forestry services; and administration of the forestry portions of the City’s Zoning Ordinance.”

This, following the City of Rockville and Saul Ewing LLP entering into a contractual agreement on May 4, 2012, after five former employees of the city alleged to The Sentinel that the city management was guilty of discrimination, racism, tampering of employee personnel files and more.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Saul Ewing agreed to compile a confidential report summarizing its findings and offer recommendations to the city.  The city refuses to release that report to the public.  

Eight days after Saul Ewing began its investigation, the chief of human resources for the city resigned; his last day was June 1.  After that, the director of parks and recreation for the city retired on June 15, 2012.  In addition, the city took 10 months to hire Barb Matthews, the new city manager, on Oct. 1, after the former city manager resigned in Dec. 2011.  

Then, according to Kimball, Matthews “held off on initiating the recruitment process for a new Director of Human Resources pending receipt of the report from Saul Ewing, LLP. Saul Ewing's report was received by the City in late November [2012].”

Now, Matthews plans on hiring two executive search firms, according to Kimball, and then the firms will assist her in hiring a new director of human resources and parks and recreation after that.

Jenny Kimball, assistant city manager and acting communications manager for the city, said the amount has not been determined for how much money the city is budgeting to pay for an executive search firm.  “When proposals from executive search firms are submitted to the city, the price included in each proposal will be one consideration in selecting a firm,” said Kimball.  “At that time we will have a better understanding of the cost of the search and the amount to budget.   Some savings have been identified in the current year budget for this purpose.”

Kimball said there is no definite date which an HR director will be hired.  “The timeline for hiring a director and the new director getting acclimated varies from search process to search process,” said Jenny Kimball, assistant city manager and acting communications manager for the city.  “For example, the hiring process may take longer if the new director is relocating to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area from another part of the country.”

The city is “moving forward with the implementation of the Saul Ewing recommendations pending the hiring of the new HR Director, to the extent practicable,” according to Kimball.  “As you know, one of Saul Ewing's recommendations was that the City update its Personnel Policies and Procedure Manual,” said Kimball.  “These revisions will be done in stages and the first group of proposed changes are expected be submitted to the Mayor and Council by March.  Ms. Matthews is reviewing the entire manual and will determine, based on her experience and input from others, what portions require revision. Ms. Matthews will lead this effort but will seek information and advice in preparing a proposal for the Mayor and Council.”

After the new HR director is hired, he or she will “take the lead in implementing improvements to the City's human resources systems, including those recommended by Saul Ewing,” according to Kimball.  “A time line for that process will be determined by the city manager in conjunction with the new director,” she said.

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