College worker says state personnel rules provide safeguards

Mesa State College President Tim Foster and other workers at the four-year school want out of the state personnel system, but not everyone at the school agrees it’s a good idea.

While Foster and one member of a group that represents about 140 college workers who are in the state personnel system say it is overly burdensome, another employee fears what will happen without the protections it offers.

“My first concern is the employees are not getting the correct information about what their rights are and what it means to be an exempt employee,” said Tom Orrell, who has worked at the college for 11 years. “The reason the classified staff system was created in the first place was to make our government accountable and to make sure they get the best person for the job. Nepotism is not allowed, and that’s what we’re seeing in the (nonclassified) system.”

A measure that would allow college workers to choose whether they want to remain in the system was introduced into the Legislature by Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran. It is to be heard in the House Business and Economic Development Committee on Thursday.

Like all state colleges in Colorado, Mesa State hires faculty and classified staff employees under the state system. Other   workers are determined to be exempt from state rules and serve at the will of administrators.

“(Classified) staff are covered by rules and regulations which are made for every state agency, and are passed by some group in Denver and enforced in Denver,” Foster said. “Pay and conditions are determined somewhere other than on this campus, so you end up with people who work here who you supervise, but you supervise somebody else’s rules and have to live with their interpretations.”

The state sets strict hiring and firing guidelines, categorizes jobs and pay and settles disputes.

Jeanne Herring, who has worked at the school for 17 years, said a majority of classified workers at Mesa State would prefer the option of choosing if they want to remain in the system.

“In 2002, the legislators took our step (pay) increases away, they put into place what they call pay for performance, but they have yet to fund that, and I’m tired of not having a raise,” she said. “The other side has better insurance than we’ve got, they’ve got better sick leave. Everything is better. Why wouldn’t I want to go over there?”

Foster and Herring said a straw poll conducted last year showed that 67 percent of classified workers want a choice, but Orrell said that was an Internet poll that was not conducted scientifically.

He said some workers feared retaliation in responding because their bosses could tell how they voted.


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