ROCKVILLE – As recently as March, complaints against the City of Rockville continued with the president of the fraternal order of police calling turnover in the city a “crisis of personnel.”
As the city looks at how best to compensate its employees, employee representatives have argued current compensation causes employees to flee to neighboring jurisdictions. Although the city does not keep records on turnover, vacancy reports from the past year show changes in departments like police and public works.
During the ongoing debate in the city, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 117 President Michelle Milne has said officers are leaving for other jurisdictions, including the county police force, because of the city’s lack of pay raises. Officers have not gotten their stepped pay increases since 2010, in addition to concern over where Rockville falls in the market.
“This is a crisis of personnel that is unprecedented for this agency in the last 30 years,” Milne said in March.
Though Rockville does not keep specific records on how long people stay in their positions, it does report vacancies to the mayor and council each quarter. City officials began those reports about a year ago. So far there have been four reports posted. Those records show:
- The city has an average of about 17 positions open at any given time.
- At the moment, the city has 15 positions (full time and part time but not including temporary workers) listed for which people may apply, and another six that are vacant but may be in the middle of the recruiting process or not listed on the career opportunities site for other reasons.
- In a Sentinel comparison in February, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park – smaller jurisdictions than Rockville – had comparable numbers of positions open relative to their staff size.
- Of the positions currently open, the positions vacant for the longest are the purchasing manager, which has been open since Aug. 1, and the City Clerk, which has been open since Aug. 8. The city clerk position is awaiting mayor and council action before recruitment because they are considering changes to the clerk’s role and organization.
Some departments also have frequent movement among positions, like public works, which hires a number of laborers and maintenance workers to take care of streets and refuse throughout the city. In the last year, at least seven maintenance worker positions became available, and two remain vacant.
These position shifts also left laborer positions open in public works since often the laborers fill the maintenance worker positions when they open, according to city spokesperson Sean Sedam. Five laborer positions became available, and one remains vacant.
In police, where Milne said in March that five officers left in three weeks, the vacancy reports show three police officer openings in the first quarter of 2015, two of which have been filled, according to Sedam. Another officer position opened since the last report and was filled on June 8.
Sedam said the city does not keep data on where employees go after they leave the city, although it can come up in an exit interview. Anecdotally, he said human-resources officials reported going to government jobs in Howard County, the District of Columbia, Montgomery County and at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
But Rockville also gets employees from those jurisdictions as well, according to Sedam.
“It’s important to note that they come here from those places as well. As we said, (it’s a) two-way street,” Sedam said.
He added that people also leave for career changes, retirement, medical leave or other reasons.
“Not everybody is leaving and going to another comparable jurisdiction,” he said. “It kind of runs the gamut.”
Nancy Berkley, a consultant with Evergreen Solutions who conducted the compensation and classification study, surveyed a number of competing jurisdictions.
She developed recommendations that would put the city’s salary structure on average at the 68th percentile in comparison with competing jurisdictions, which would put them toward the higher end of the market they are in.