The Spokane City Council enacted a new ordinance on Monday that sets guidelines on how the city loans employees and property to other agencies.
Earlier this year, the City Council learned that at least three city employees had been assigned to work for outside agencies – including Spokane Regional Emergency Communications – without any formal agreement, according to council member Candace Mumm. After the council raised the issue, invoices were created and the city was reimbursed more than $20,000.
Under the law spearheaded by Mumm, the council will have a say when a city employee or city property is loaned to another agency, including the state, county or any other municipal government.
The law requires that a written agreement be approved by the council before an employee is loaned to another agency for 25% or more of his or her regular working hours.
“This just sets out a process in the future so if there were to be more future loaning, for a longer period of time, of property or staff, we have a way to track it,” Mumm said.
Mayor David Condon expressed initial reservations about the ordinance and its impact on the city’s ability to contribute to collaborative efforts across the region. But the council and administration worked together in recent months to agree on language both found palatable.
“City staff has worked with council on the loaned employee ordinance to make it more manageable from an operational perspective – accounting for actual sharing of an employee, rather than just incidental contact with other jurisdictions,” said Marlene Feist, a city spokeswoman.
Still, Condon believes the council’s action is outside its purview.
“By Charter, the Mayor is granted the authority to direct work of employees, not the council,” Feist said.
The council disagrees.
“This is really our purview because it’s the budget,” Mumm said.
Under the new law, agreements must stipulate what duties the loaned employees will be performing, for whom they will be working, and for how many hours a week they will be loaned.
It mandates that the entity borrowing the employee pay the city based on how many hours he or she works outside their typical duties for the city.
The law makes an exception for members of law enforcement task forces.
The city’s police and fire department are also allowed to loan employees on an emergency basis without a formal agreement for up to 15 days at a time. If the loan extends beyond 15 days, the City Council must approve the loan.
As for the loan of property, the ordinance requires an agreement approved by the City Council and that the borrower pay the city “a reasonable rental or lease rate, based upon fair market value, throughout the duration of the lease of the city property or equipment.” The requirement only applies to property or equipment valued at more than $5,000.
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