Hibson working his way forward

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Norwalk Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Emmet Hibson.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s new director of personnel and labor relations, on the job for nearly a month, says he started his new gig with a full plate — of mostly leftovers.

Emmett Hibson, former Stamford personnel director, began here March 27 as a replacement for former Personnel Director James Haselkamp, who left shortly after the November inauguration of Mayor Harry Rilling. Since then, he’s been cleaning up the backlog, he said in a Tuesday interview with NancyOnNorwalk.

“I have done a pretty good job of getting through a lot of the backlog, but I still have some old files that are out there,” he said.  

Anyone expecting that Hibson’s arrival would end the confusion over department heads – as in who can Rilling replace and who he can’t – will have to wait longer.

Asked about the issue — one that gets raised often in the comments on this site and others — Hibson said, “I haven’t been here long enough. I haven’t been looking at the department heads. I’ve been more looking at the unions and, one, preparing for contract negotiations and two, dealing with issues that were pending before I got here, and kind of knocking those out. So I have been meeting with unions. I have been meeting with department heads and dealing with back issues. No one has brought to me an issue of getting rid of the department heads.”

The team has started sorting out performance evaluation efforts, though.

“We had a meeting last week,” he said. “We discussed doing performance evaluations for department heads. But it wasn’t specific to any one individual. It was a citywide department head evaluation and who the mayor’s direct reports were and who were the people who are deputy directors that were not in the union, and who they reported to. So the mayor had asked to see performance evaluations from the past and who his direct reports are and his non-direct reports. I had to give the performance evaluations to the department heads, where they have to do evaluations on employees who are not direct reports to the mayor.”

Other issues touched on in the interview:

How does Norwalk differ from Stamford in the structure of the city’s management team?

  • “I don’t know that it differs much. I think every municipality has a similar structure of services. It’s a fairly large city like Stamford is. It has the same mayoral run, department heads that run the various organizations in that tree up to the mayor. I would say that one of the big differences is that, whereas in Stamford the department heads tree up to a kind of a senior level individual operational person, and only four people are really heads that direct report to the mayor in Stamford. Here, all people direct report to the mayor. The mayor doesn’t have intermediate steps to his department heads. So the mayor has more direct reports than in Stamford.”

When the mayor was running for office, he said he would be looking at redundancies to see if positions could be eliminated or combined, and perhaps there could be pay downgrades. Has this topic been broached?

  • “Not with me, but that would probably be more with the director of finance in his budgeting process.”

What union contracts are up for negotiation? Any talk about reopening any contracts?

  • “No. The contracts are fairly new. They were 2012-13 settlements. There’s not long-term contracts where there’s many issues on the table. Revised health plans and revised pensions in there. I would be surprised if there was any reason to reopen. 2016 is when the next negotiations come around. So the end of 2015 is when we will start ramping up for new negotiations.”

Hibson said the backlog has included ongoing pension plan changes and issues raised with the fire and police departments.

“I had meetings for issues with (Local) 2405,” he said. “… There are contracts that have been negotiated but haven’t been signed yet, so there have been some issues we go through just to verify some stuff on the language. Just some pending grievances we are working through. We haven’t resolved all of them.”


2 responses to “Hibson working his way forward”

  1. John Hamlin

    Okay, so can the Mayor terminate anyone in City Hall? And if so, who? And if not, who can? Are the department heads and others in City Hall simply appointed for life? Has anyone who works for the City ever been terminated? So it seems that, since no one has wanted to evaluate and hold accountable any department heads, and since no one ever gets fired, it’s not surprising that there are parts of the City government that are less than fully effective. This is no way to run a City. Someone needs to be able to take responsibility for decisions related to personnel — including a yearly review and decision to allow them the privilege to keep working. If no one will take responsibility, then the voters should fire the Mayor and the entire Council every two years until they figure it out.

  2. piberman

    Its illuminating that Mayor Rilling apparently ran for office promising a “New Norwalk” without really investigating what changes might be required in the managerial ranks. Or apparently even having a clear understanding of how financial decisions are made. Not doing “homework” seems the Norwalk tradition. No so in Stamford. When then candidate Malloy ran for Mayor he and his team put together a whole binder on how to revitalize Stamford’s government. That “homework” paid off. He’s now Governor. Maybe Norwalk’s politicos should reflect on how success is achieved. Electing candidates who first begin to do their “homework” after election benefits neither the citizens nor the candidate. But it does beget confusion. And unfortunately indifferent governance.

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