E-Mail Forum
City Employees Struck By Resume Phobia
November 28, 2001
Several times, over the last few years, I have requested from the City Manager's Office copies of the resumes of perhaps half a dozen newly hired management level and professional employees. As it generally occurs, these new employees just show up one day and go to work. The City Council is not routinely provided with any detailed information as to where they came from or what they have been doing previously. My motivation was simply to have an understanding of the background and professional experience of new staff members who are entering positions of substantial responsibility.

Recently, my request for the resume of a newly hired assistant city attorney received no response. Later, I received a copy of a memo from the City Attorney's Office essentially saying that resumes were part of an employee's confidential personnel file and could not be released. When I pointed out to the assistant city attorney that Richmond's Public Information Ordinance (Richmond Municipal Code Chapter 2.40) required the release of such information, not only to City Council members, but also to the public at large, he modified his opinion. The resumes could be released, he opined, but with personal information, such as home address, phone number, medical information, etc. redacted. This seemed fair and appropriate, as well as consistent with RMC 2.40. I was satisfied.

Because there was still some confusion regarding the resume policy, however, I asked that it be placed on the November 27 agenda for discussion.

At the first City Council meeting of the new mayor and two new City Council members, did we discuss a vision for the City? Long term goals and objectives? The looming budget deficit? No, we spent a good part of the evening passionately discussing resumes of City employees. I did not anticipate the firestorm of protest it generated for over an hour.

First, it would be useful to review what Richmond Municipal Code Chapter 2.40 ( see http://bpc.iserver.net/codes/richmond/index.htm ). This ordinance, modeled on a similar one by Contra Costa County, was passed as an initiative by a vote of the people in 1993. This was after the Richmond City Council refused to consider it. The ordinance says that the following employee information must be released upon request to the public:

b) Personal Information. None of the following shall be exempt from disclosure under Government Code Section 6254, subdivision (c):
(1) The job pool characteristics and employment and education histories of all job applicants, including at a minimum the following information as to each applicant: i. Sex, age and ethnic group; ii. Years of graduate and undergraduate study, degree(s) and major or discipline; iii. Years of employment in the private and/or public sector; iv. Whether currently employed in the same position for another public agency; v. Other nonidentifying particulars as to experience, credentials, aptitudes, training or education entered in or attached to a standard employment application form used for the position in question.
(2) The professional biography or curriculum vitae of every employee of the City.
(3) The job description of every employee of the City.
(4) The exact salary and benefit package of every employee of the City.
(5) Any memorandum of understanding between City and one or more employees.
(6) The record of any confirmed misconduct of a City employee involving personal dishonesty, misappropriation of public funds, resources or benefits, unlawful discrimination against another on the basis of status, abuse of authority, or violence; and of any discipline imposed for such misconduct.

Notwithstanding the fact that resumes are, by our local law, public information, a series of City employees, led by Human Resources Director Cedrick Williams, roundly condemned the law and made impassioned pleas that it be changed. They stopped just short of refusing to comply. Williams said, among other things, that resume disclosure would dissuade potential employees from applying for jobs with the City, lead to corruption of the civil service system, to meddling in personnel matters by the City Council and to undermining the city manager form of government. Williams went on to say that such a requirement was unique to Richmond and unprecedented in California. Richmond's public information officer, Angela Jones, stated that she certainly would have never applied for a job in Richmond if she had been told that that a City Council member or some citizen would actually have access to public information - such as her resume.

Even several City Council members joined in, ascribing to their resume-seeking colleagues the most nefarious of motives, including the dreaded "M" word (micromanagement), intimidation and violating the rights of employees. Some called for changing the offending ordinance, and the mayor promised to assign it to the appropriate committee for quick action.

I have to say that the protestations were, in my opinion, an amazing demonstration of unfounded paranoia. Many who spoke simply had their facts wrong. This requirement is not unique to the City of Richmond. In fact, the wording is almost verbatim from Contra Costa County Ordinance Chapter 25-4, Public Information, from which it was taken by the drafters of Richmond's ordinance in 1993.

An employee's education and employment history should be a record of pride, not of shame or fear. Those who derive their compensation from the public should never be immune from public scrutiny, or just curiosity, regarding their professional qualifications. Especially the City Council, which acts as the board of directors for this municipal corporation, should not be denied access to the most basic information about those who work for them.

What do you think?