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County board approves human resource audit : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
County board approves human resource audit
Assistant state's attorney expects audit will take six months to complete

by Matt Schury


The Kendall County Board gave Assistant State's Attorney Leslie Johnson their approval Tuesday to go forward with a Human Resources audit that will include a formal review of job descriptions for county employees.

"This is something that I've wanted to work on since I began working for the county," she said, adding that when she was in private practice this is something she did for many clients, from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses.

Johnson had negotiated 10 collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the county this year with the respective unions that represent county employees. With those contracts settled, Johnson said she, would have time for the audit.

Johnson has already done similar audits with the state's attorney's office and most of the elected offices in the county over the past few years.

She added that she could include elected officials in this audit, as well as other entities like the Forest Preserve District and the Health Department if those boards choose to be included.

"We always used the state's attorney's office as the guinea pig first before we make any kind of HR recommendations or decisions or changes," she said.

The audit will take about six months, Johnson estimated, with her collecting and reviewing documents, interviewing staff and preparing a report of her finding. Johnson said that she plans to conduct the audit in between her usual tasks.

Weis said the audit would take a while.

"If you're expecting something to come back in January, that's not a realistic time frame," he said, adding that it took a few months just to do the State's Attorney's office.

"Unless there is some major concern or some immediate violation of the law, then obviously we would bring that to your attention,' Weis said.

Johnson gave the County Board members a list of topics generally covered in an HR audit. They include: management, hiring, new employees, wages and hours, benefits, employee relations/employment practices, safety and security, discrimination and employee rights, worker's compensation, employee separation, record keeping and other documentation.

"I will review each and ever single personnel file in this county to make sure that we have everything in those personnel files that is supposed to be there," she said.

However, she added that she would have to have authorization from the board to review those personnel files as part of the audit.

"I'm not going through personnel files to look at each file as to who is disciplined on what date and keep track of that," she said.

Her intent in going through personnel records is to make sure they contain all the paperwork they are supposed to contain and categories of records, she said.

"I have a feeling that portions of a personnel file are located in one office and a portion of a personnel file is located in another office, that there may not be just a central depository where the whole file is located," she said.

The way the county is paying wages per hour is also another area she will heavily concentrate on.

"That's where there is the biggest potential civil liabilities for any type of an employment setting, because if you violate wage and hour laws, there are penalties that can be assessed as well as attorney's fees, liquidated damages," she said.

FMLA benefits will also be looked at to make sure that department heads are issuing the proper documentation and making sure they are getting the proper paperwork from employees as well as recording it in the best manner possible.

"Part of the audit is to figure out who possesses what records and make sure that if we have the Department of Labor come in and do an audit that we know where all of those records are," Johnson told the board. "If there's better practices that we can implement to be more efficient and to help ease the burden on the department heads, that's certainly something that I would recommend also."

Johnson said that one upside to doing the audit is talking with staff and finding out about little things that are bothering employees that are easy to fix and go a long way to improve employee relations.

"As part of an audit you interview staff and you talk to staff on a daily basis and it's amazing the things you can find out in just doing these audits," she said.

Johnson said when she was first hired she found out that there was no consistency among departments.

"Everybody did things their own way ... not through any fault of anyone's. Its just everybody is different," she said, adding that communication can be difficult for a large organization.

A benefit to the audit will be that she will be able to more easily find out where information is and what staff responsibilities are.

"If we can obtain some consistency between departments and make this a well-oiled machine, then we get that ball rolling," she said.

Board Chairman John Shaw said he supported the audit.

"Let's have at it ... as far as we are concerned, with this consensus, it's a unanimous go," Shaw said.

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