County News Home Page
October 17, 2005
NACo Home Page
NACO Home Current Issue Back Issues Editorial & Advertising
County News

 The H.R. Doctor Is In

Homecoming Celebrations

This is the season for homecoming celebrations. Special celebrations at college football games, dances and high school parties will be in full swing for several months. However, there is a very special homecoming planned in one of the public agencies in South Florida. Police Sergeant Pete Bermudez will be coming home from Afghanistan. Pete has served in the Army Reserves for more than 11 years. While he has seen the inside of a lot of Humvees lately, it has been a while since he has seen the inside of a police car. His wife and fellow police officer, Julie, will be planning a party and the city government in Miramar, Fla. will be assisting.

As any hungry internal auditor might ask, "What justification is there for government support and some public money, even if it is a very small amount, to participate in a homecoming celebration?"

The answer involves the basic "test" for the discretionary authority of a county manager or a city manger for the use of public funds for any event. The test question is whether or not there is "public purpose" associated with the event.

As almost every public agency in the county and city can attest, there is definitely an impact on local government services, especially law enforcement, because of how seriously stretched the U.S. military is in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The county taxpayers end up paying the cost of replacing the soldier/employee, perhaps at time-and-a-half. It is these local agencies which often continue the benefits of the public employees while they are fulfilling a federal role, if military pay does not equal their public agency pay. It is also the local government which loses the experience and expertise of employees who, particularly in a smaller agency, may occupy key roles.

Of course, there is great importance and great honor associated with service in the defense of our country. The former "HR Captain" is well aware of that. No one sacrifices more than the individual soldiers placed in harm’s way. Nonetheless, it is important to note that public agencies serve the national defense as well when they suffers the loss of trained and valued employees, and with little or no control over that loss.

In a world with increasing comprehension of the need for homeland security, the role of local emergency service workers is even more important than in the past. Unfortunately, many communities will face difficulties if there ever is a serious and sustained emergency.

How many firefighter/paramedics also work in emergency rooms or trauma centers during the substantial periods of time off they have? Those hospitals will count these "OR" or "ER" technicians, and count on them, as members of their staffs if a community emergency, such as a bioterrorism event, occurs. However, these same people will be ordered by the local government for extended "alpha/bravo" overtime shifts for the same emergency.

The result is that we may well be over-estimating the number of emergency workers available to help. The loss of Reserve and National Guard members may well compound that problem.

In the case of our internal auditor friend, the city will pass the test with flying colors. Celebrating the return of one of the local government’s finest has a public purpose. From the regular communications Bermudez had with his colleagues in Miramar via e-mail, from sending home flags which flew in battle zones to help others remember the sacrifices being made, to celebrating a safe and healthy return to duty in the service of local government, there are morale and teambuilding reasons for the workforce and the public to join in acknowledging extraordinary service.

Welcome home Pete, I am looking forward to joining not only your celebration, but that of your family members who also served in the country’s defense in ways that are not acknowledged and celebrated enough.

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor


Job Market / Classifieds

Financial Services News

The H.R. Doctor Is In

What's In a Seal?

News from the Nation's Counties

NACo On the Move

Research News

Profiles In Service

In Case You Missed It ...

Tools for Tough Times
Write to Your Editor
Print This Page

Bookmark and Share
NACo Home  |  Current Issue  |  Back Issues  |  Editorial & Advertising
© Copyright 1996-2002 County News