Board establishes Town Hall office hours to separate employees’ duty requirements

John Troncone

John Troncone

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted a resolution last week establishing Town Hall business hours that meet state requirements for separation of employees’ duties.
Board members took the action Thursday night during their regular monthly meeting by a 2-1 vote, with Alderman John Troncone dissenting and Alderman Billy Ray Morris absent.
The resolution states that the board desires to comply with the requirements established in the Internal Control and Compliance Manual for Tennessee Municipalities. Those requirements include:
(1) Employees maintaining accounting records must be separated from those “receipting, depositing and/or disbursing” funds.
(2) Multiple employees cannot operate from the same cash drawer.
(3) Each employee scheduled to work six consecutive hours must have a 30-minute meal or rest period.
The board noted that the two Town Hall employees with “cashiering responsibilities” are on “compressed work schedules,” while the other employees in the Administrative Department are not.
The resolution states that, beginning on Feb. 2, the Town Hall business hours will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the office closed for lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m.
It also notes that the work schedules of the Town Hall “municipal clerks” will conform to the same business hours.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Mayor Chris Goodman said the resolution will bring Oakland “in line” with the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements that the town has not always “met completely.”
In response to a question by Troncone, Goodman acknowledged that closing the office from noon to 12:30 p.m. will “potentially disadvantage” residents who use their lunch hour to come pay their water bills.
“But if we publish those hours, they are aware of them and wouldn’t take that time,” the mayor noted. “They’ve still got the option of putting it in an envelope and in the drop box.”
Troncone wondered whether one of the two cashiers could go to lunch from 11 a.m. to noon and the other one from noon to 1 p.m. But Goodman asked him what the office would do on the days when one is sick or on vacation.
Town Recorder Tammie Hightower said that, if one of the cashiers goes to lunch, the other one is at the bill payment window. She has to eat lunch at her desk and try to assist customers at the same time, which is a “violation of labor laws.”
“When one is sick or off work on the compressed work schedule, that leaves the other one bearing the burden,” she noted. “You’re running into it two days a week, easily.”
Referring to another woman works in the Water Department, Troncone asked if she could “come over” during the lunch hour. When Goodman said she is not “bonded” to handle the cash, Troncone wondered whether bonding her might solve the problem.
“I don’t know what all the ups and downs are to it,” the mayor replied. “But then, you take away from what she’s doing on her job as well. So, what is the balance of managing the departments?”
Hightower said the cashier’s job is not something that anyone can “come in and just do.”
“You can’t do service orders and answer all the questions unless you’ve had some training,” she noted. “You’re going to have to be here before you’re turned loose on the window. It’s much more work than people realize.”
When Alderman Kelly Rector asked what other municipalities do, Hightower said some of them have enough cashiers to “swap up” to go to lunch for 30 minutes or an hour.
In response to a question by Alderman Karl Chambless, the town recorder said the compressed work schedule was established for the cashiers several years ago. They work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
And because they do not get a break period, she called that “an awfully long day” for someone “looking at numbers.”
“Statistically, when you have breaks and you’re able to step away,” Hightower noted, “you’re not going to make as many mistakes. You’re going to be more productive.”
Rector said he would like to receive a report from the residents and the employees, so the board will know how the new business hours are “working out.”
Goodman said he believes that, if the residents are not “happy,” the aldermen will know it either through the Mayor’s Action Center or the telephone calls they receive.