Ending at-will employment for government

The Indiana State legislature needs to add an exception to Indiana’s “at-will” employment law to make it illegal for government at all levels (city, county, township and state) to fire employees without cause. This would better serve taxpayers and protect employees who are doing a good job.

Yes, civil service protections can be problematic and a permanent bureaucracy is not the answer. We have all heard the horror stories about government employees who cannot be fired and continue to be paid on the taxpayers’ dime despite the fact that they lack the competence, professionalism, integrity and skill set needed to do their work. But because they were hired, it is nearly impossible to remove them.

But the way government operates now is not sustainable, especially as the workload becomes more complex. An elected office changes hands and all of the employees are frightened for their jobs. Employees are terrified to point out wrongdoing because they are afraid to lose their jobs, so outright theft happens without anyone trying to do anything about it or even letting the proper authorities know about the crimes. Elected officials remove qualified employees and replace them with people who cannot do the job through nepotism, cronyism and patronage. This is a system that does not serve the taxpayers at all.

The solution, then, is to professionalize local and state government by implementing basic best practices. If local government cannot be trusted to do this voluntarily, then the state legislature needs to force them to do it. Best practices includes removing bad employees, after progressive discipline and good-faith efforts to bring under-performing employees into line. (Obviously, there are some things that require immediate termination.) Leave the politics to the legislative bodies while focusing administrative offices on actually serving the taxpayers instead of serving their political parties.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to move in that direction by casting the right votes in the general election. Republican candidates for office – specifically auditor candidate Ann Boehm and treasurer candidate Ann Collins – have pledged to end the “at will” nonsense in their offices and follow basic “best practices” with their staff. Electing Boehm and Collins would help, but that will only help those two offices in one of the state’s 92 counties. The rest of the state needs the legislature to intervene.

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