Featured photo: Workers with the city of Greensboro rally outside of the municipal building before an April 4 city council meeting. (photo by Gale Melcher)

Winston-Salem and Greensboro city councilmembers voted in tandem to oppose a bill that would create a civil service board for each city during council meetings on Monday and Tuesday

On March 23, HB 470 was filed in the state legislature and recently passed through the state house and is now being heard in the Senate. 

The main push for the boards has been that with a civil service board, city workers who have been cited for termination could appeal to the board even after the city manager makes their final decision. Hearings could be held for them, granting additional job protections for city workers.

City workers in Greensboro have been dissatisfied with the city’s grievance procedure for years, as noted by local union vice president Bryce Carter. During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Carter said that workers are pushing for the civil service board because they believe it would address inconsistencies in firing and representation of workers during the process. 

“I do think that our employees should be able to make sure that policy and procedure was followed when they are being fired, while they are being demoted,” Vaughan said at the council meeting.

On the other hand, elected officials have pushed back openly against the bill.

“I don’t think there’s a terrible problem with our current system but we have identified some things that can be…improved,” Winston-Salem’s City Manager Lee Garrity said during the council meeting on Monday.

“The process takes too long, no employee should have to wait weeks and months before they find out, particularly if they’ve been suspended without pay,” Garrity acknowledged, adding that the city is going to “institute a very strict rule, it’s coming with the budget… that will hold all of us accountable if we don’t meet a much faster turnaround time for grievances.”

If passed, the bill would implement a board comprised of five members appointed by city council, the police chief and fire chief, and members of the classified service of the city — which includes all officers and employees of the city except the city manager, department directors and their assistant directors, the city clerk, fire and police department leadership, or officers elected by the people. 

Board members must all be qualified voters of the city and cannot be employed by the city.

The bill has yet to be voted on by the state Senate.

The bill is sponsored by Forsyth and Guilford County Republicans Rep. Jeff Zenger, House Whip Jon Hardister and Rep. Kyle Hall. 

Councilmembers in Winston-Salem voted unanimously in favor of opposing the bill, while Greensboro’s representatives voted 5-3 with the city’s Mayor Nancy Vaughan joining councilmembers Zack Matheny and Tammi Thurm in their opposition of the resolution against the bill. Councilmember Hugh Holston was absent.

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