I am willing to bet that many of you wonder why the crooks at City of Tucson Waste Management were reinstated in their City jobs after they were fired for cheating on the time clock. I think I can explain the situation with an anecdote.
Many moons ago, I had a friend who worked for the City. She worked in the Tucson, Pima County Public Library (it was owned jointly then). She worked as a manager of a small department, and supervised two to three people.
We were chatting once, and she talked about work, about how much she liked her job. She said that she really liked the people with whom she worked â€“ except for one.
I asked about the one she disliked â€“ Iâ€™ll refer to her as â€œAmyâ€. She told me that Amy did not do her work. I asked if she meant that Amy was slow, or did she commit many errors. No, she did not do her work. In fact, my friend asked her boss if she could tell Amy to stay home and just mail her check to her. In so doing, my friend would have freed up valuable time that she wasted trying to explain to Amy that which she was supposed to do, but apparently could not.
I thought that I must be missing something. I figured that if I kept talking, I would pick it up. I suggested that Amy might be terminated. â€œYou canâ€™t fire anyone,â€ my friend told me. This gave me pause. I had heard that government jobs were relatively secure, but this was something else.
â€œWho has the authority to fire Amy?â€, I asked. She told me that the authority was hers. I felt as if I had moved from missing something, to not seeing anything. I backed up a little, and asked why she could not fire anyone â€“ particularly someone who did not do her work.
She explained that she could fire her, but then Amy would appeal the firing to the independent review commission (I forget the formal title of the commission), and the commission always reinstates the employee. I asked why it always sides with the employee.
The answer is a simple case of incentive. You see, if the employee is reinstated, the case is over, and the employee is no longer the commissionâ€™s problem. There is no recourse for the City, and the employee has what he wants. On the other hand, if the firing is sustained, the employee can retaliate in any number of ways. For example, he can sue the City and the commission, or he can go to the media and make a public stink that might draw negative attention to the commission. If he is a member of a protected group, both those efforts are slam-dunks.
The commission is so independent that it serves its own interests, rather than fulfilling its responsibilities to the City and the employee.
And that, my friends, is why City of Tucson employees cannot be fired.