Councilwoman Dot Wood was appointed Monday night to head a committee to revise the city’s personnel handbook.
Her appointment came after a two-and-a-half-hour personnel hearing involving a city firefighter, who was placed on medical leave because of uncontrolled type 2 diabetes.
Pell City firefighter Jeff Parrish testified his doctor told him it was too dangerous for him to perform certain firefighting duties because of his high blood sugar levels, but cleared the veteran firefighter to cut grass for his second job, as long as he had someone with him, and he took it easy.
Parrish was told by his superiors he could not come back to work unless he was cleared by his doctor, and he said the Fire Department has a policy that restricts “light duty.”
Interim Fire Chief Jim Parson recommended that Parrish be fired, but the council voted to suspend Parrish for 20 working shifts, or 60 days, without pay.
“This gentleman did not see anything wrong with what he did,” Wood said at the council meeting.
She said city personnel do not need to work at a second job while they are being paid sick leave by the city.
“You need to be home, not cutting grass,” she said. “I guess we need to spell it out.”
Councilman Donnie Guinn, who was also appointed to the committee to help revamp the city’s personnel handbook, said one of the first things the new administration did when they took office was to address the handbook.
Apparently some work was completed, but revisions for the manual were not finished.
“I blame myself and the council,” Wood said. “We get too many things going, and sometimes things aren’t completed. We need to finish what we start.”
Officials say the last time the personnel handbook was updated was in 2003.
“We brought this up when we first came into office almost two years ago, and it still hasn’t been done,” Wood said.
Many of the city’s firefighters and police officers have second and third jobs and depend on those jobs for extra income.
“That second job should not be your main job,” Wood said. “If it is, you should be working somewhere else.”
She said the city should not restrict its employees from “light duty.”
“That’s the first time I heard we don’t allow light duty,” Wood said. “There was something he could do, somewhere, even if it’s for another department. … We’re going to look at all that.”
She said the city attorney, Alan Furr, will also serve on the committee to revise the personnel handbook, along with the city’s personnel officer, and possibly department heads.
Wood said the council will approve the members who will serve on the committee.
“Our personnel manual is in terrible shape,” Wood said.
Councilman Donnie Todd said officials do not need to make policy concerning sick leave too restrictive.
“I disagree that a person has to be home (when on sick leave),” he said.
Wood said it will take time to make proper revisions to the city’s personnel manual.
“It’s not going to be overnight,” she said.