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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesMONEY ISN'T THE ANSWER TO ALL QUESTIONS

MONEY ISN'T THE ANSWER TO ALL QUESTIONS

To the Source:
It is being said that our public servants are underpaid and therefore demoralized. Does that necessarily mean that if the public servants were to be paid all the money they ask for, the public would receive better service? I am sure that many who joined the government service did so not for the high pay it affords but rather for the security it offers and other perks. Now these same people want to have it all, high pay, best fringe benefits and all the other perks.
Can anyone identify a government that can afford to satisfy all the wants of its public service employees? I believe there are other considerations to be taken into account in resolving the morale problem of our public service employees.
We need to investigate, through our representatives in the Legislature, and in particular on the Government Operations Committee, the factors that contribute to the low morale in government service. I would like to enumerate some that I experienced as a public servant (now retired) and from my conversations with other public servants.
To begin, I would point out poor leadership. The executives appointed by the chief executive are for the most part not really competent for the assignments but are given them based on political and family connections. Some supervisors who are incompetent are inclined to cover up their incompetence by employing all kinds of unorthodox schemes. The problem is that of top management and middle management.
Coupled with incompetence is negligence on the part of these management personnel, their lack of punctuality, their fraternization with a particular group of subordinates in opposition to others, their partiality in the application of the rules of employment, their failure to provide adequate leadership and needed supplies to subordinates, etc.
We need to find out why there is no regular, ongoing training on all levels of government service. We need to find out why there is such widespread abuse of privilege by public servants: extended lunch periods, abuse of sick time, regular absence from post, suspension of service more than 15 minutes before close of business day, etc. Would increases in pay improve the courtesy and quality of service to the public?
The unions have effectively rendered ineffective the evaluation tool of the personnel merit system, and that needs to be addressed by the Legislature. Maybe we need to adopt what I understand is practiced by the federal government, that salaries are not negotiated but are established by the merit system, which is competitive and graded according to law.
We need to evaluate our emergency services with the purpose of upgrading them to meet the needs of this community. One area that needs immediate attention is the response time, which is critical in emergency situations. Are the services provided with adequately trained personnel, equipment and good management?
There is no reason to develop the greatest of plans if they will not be implemented. We need to ensure that the plans of action that are developed and approved are put into use and monitored for faithful compliance. I know, you are saying that takes discipline which is lacking. Granted that is true, we can still strive to improve by developing self-discipline.
I believe that the Police Department, our premier emergency responder, needs restructuring, maybe by the reinstitution of the platoon system and the implementation of a real career incentive program, as was recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police years ago. As we can observe, there are very few officers, if any, on the beat, much less supervisors. It is my view that since the supervisors have made themselves expendable, we should reduce their numbers and increase the seniority ranking of the officers.
At present the officers are on their own when on patrol, anyway. There is very little roll call, directed patrols and post inspection by supervisors. I am sure if the higher echelons were to ask commanders their frequency of inspection, the truthful answers would be appalling. There is no inspector general in the Police Department — a very useful office for a paramilitary organization as the department purports to be.
Is there any real oversight by the Legislature of government agencies besides sporadic and reactionary public performances by some committee chairs? In a democratic society, the people get the quality of government they deserve, since they elect their own representatives. If we think we deserve better, let us take control and literally pull these representatives aside and demand better performance, the democratic way. Let us exercise people power that is granted to us by the U.S. Constitution and the V.I. Organic Act.
J.J. Estemac
St. Thomas
We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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