Mark's "New Department" Idea

In a bold new proposal for King County politics, Mark Greene has energized the King County Council, District 9 primary race with his idea of a county Department of Grievances, Solutions and Whistleblowers. As we mentioned in yesterday's essay, Mark first told the Seattle Times editorial board about this idea during his debate with Reagan Dunn (Ms. Tonda chose not to attend).

Yesterday, we listed the divisions in this proposed new department. Now, we will explain exactly how this department would work.

County or parish employees generally, in any state, often feel intimidated about the prospect of going to the brass in their own departments to talk about problems, make grievances or to give their ideas about how something should be done. They also do not feel welcome in human resource or personnel departments, because of the connection between department heads and the central hiring and disciplinary office. As a result of this distance between employees and management, employees will often keep their work related problems pent up inside themselves or ignore them altogether. Then problems fester and become bigger, and frequently become full blown crises within a section or entire departments. These crises can have a huge negative effect on county operations, budgeting and employee morale, and usually do.

It is not only problems that are pent up, but solutions to problems. It is often said in the workplace that common everyday laborers, office workers, or lower level technicians have some of the best ideas regarding creativity, productivity, and overall improvements in the workplace. However, as a result of this employee - management disconnect, which is often due to management not wanting to be second guessed or surpassed in intellectual capability by their subordinates, many positive ideas and solutions to problems never see the light of day.

This is why employees should have a third option besides management and human resources that they can go to with their grievances and solutions, or to blow the whistle on abuses or incompetencies that they see in their sections or departments, or anywhere in the county system that they happen to come upon.

The general public, especially those who are citizens of the county, also needs a place within the county where they can more easily participate as volunteers in county operations and offer solutions to problems. They also need another place besides the council and the executive's office to make their grievances and to blow the whistle on negative governmental activities that may not be generally known.

The new Department of Grievances, Solutions and Whistleblowers will take care of all of this from both the employee and public standpoints. The following is a short synopsis of the responsibilities of the proposed seven divisions within this proposed department:

WASTE & INEFFICIENCY: This will basically be the auditing division. The division will investigate complaints about waste and inefficiencies in the county system and also conduct their own audits, random and scheduled, of county departments.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEES: This will be the division that organizes environmental committees in virtually every department. These committees will consist of employees within their own department that will come up with ideas to improve the environmental standards within their department, and to actually implement ideas that are approved by the Department of Grievances, Solutions and Whistleblowers.

VOLUNTEER COMMITTEES: This will be the public outreach division, where the public can come in to offer thier ideas for government operations and planning, and individuals can be selected for committees that are approved by the Department of Grievances, Solutions and Whistleblowers.

CREATIVITY: This will be the employee outreach division for ideas and solutions to problems. This will also be the volunteer committee outreach division, where members of the public can advance to a division where creative ideas would be the main focus.

EMERGENCY PLANNING: This will be the division in which planning for emergencies would be done, such as preparations for emergency responses, evacuations and temporary housing. This division would consider every possible emergency from flooding to earthquakes.

WHISTLEBLOWERS: This will basically be the grievance division, where employees and the public can make their grievances known incognito or otherwise. This division would also be responsible for complaints about lawbreaking, harassment, malfeasance, hooliganism, incompetence and outright abuse.

RECOMMENDATIONS: This will basically be the solutions division, whereas they would take the recommendations of all of the other divisions, county employees generally, and the general public without making revisions, and make a report to the King County Council on the pros and cons of each recommendation. This division would be the main liaison between the council and the Department of Grievances, Solutions and Whistleblowers, along with the head of the department.

[revised on 7/3/09]

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