By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
The General Assembly’s legislative leaders voted Wednesday to pay the National Conference of State Legislators $42,000 to conduct an audit of the Legislative Research Commission and begin the process of hiring a new LRC director.
But it wasn’t without some contention as House Democrats voted against the motion by Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, saying they preferred another proposal to recommend ways to improve staff evaluations and advancement.
The LRC is the 16-member committee of legislative leaders from both parties and legislative chambers. But the term is used also for the staffing arm of the General Assembly which employs about 400 people.
Its most recent director, Bobby Sherman, retired following completion of an internal LRC staff review of sexual harassment allegations levied against former lawmaker John Arnold by three female LRC staff.
In November, the governing arm of legislative leaders heard proposals from NCSL, a national organization of state legislators based in Denver, and Hanna Resources Group, based in Lexington, about how they’d perform a performance audit of the LRC and to develop the process for hiring Sherman’s successor.
But the Hanna proposal focused more on human resources issues of staff evaluations and the process for awarding good performance with opportunities for career advancement while the revised NCSL proposal approved Wednesday would move more quickly on hiring a director.
That appeared to be the nexus of the divided opinions Wednesday: the Senate, led by Republicans but supported by the minority Senate Democrats on the LRC, want to move ahead on hiring a director while Democrats in the House want to respond to complaints from staff that in the past colleagues were promoted without regard to experience or performance.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark both said they have heard numerous complaints from staff that promotions and advancement in the past sometimes appeared based on personal preference rather than experience or performance.
Stivers responded that he didn’t disagree with the need to evaluate those procedures, but “before we get to that step we need to go through the process and get an executive director in place.”
After the meeting, Stumbo too said he didn’t disagree with Stivers’ and his Senate colleagues’ desire to move forward, but “we simply disagree on the methodology of how you do it.”
He said he’d have preferred the Hanna Group to first review the human resource procedures and then have NCSL review policies.
“Some non-partisan staff feel like they were passed over by Director Sherman and those who preceded him and there should be some clear ladder for some sort of reward and compensation for good work,” he said.
He also preferred the Hanna Group’s lower price of $17,000. House Democratic Whip Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, also said the revised proposal from NCSL approved Wednesday had deleted earlier provisions to examine compensation and job classifications but the price hadn’t been reduced.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.