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Commission fine-tunes plan for museums hiring, budget

The new leaders of York County's museums are polishing a plan to eliminate several director positions and realign existing employees while fielding concerns over the way they plan to staff open positions.

The Culture and Heritage Commission, which oversees the museums, received approval from county leaders for the plan on Monday. But county staff recommended some revisions to ensure employees whose positions are meant to carry over don't experience any disruptions.

At the commission's meeting Tuesday night at the Museum of York County in Rock Hill, commissioners worked to revise the plan and work toward a budget to give to the County Council soon.

Commissioner Dennis Getter said the reductions will trim some money from the commission's request for support from the county, though exactly how much they'll know better next week. The commission will meet Monday to finalize the details.

Museum employees also asked commissioners how they will staff open positions.

New positions will be posted through the county's human resources department, County Manager Jim Baker said. That department will accept applications and make recommendations to the commission, which can interview applicants and hire workers to fill positions, or delegate that responsibility to employees, he said.

But what the commission can't do is choose an employee for promotion without going through the required open hiring process, Baker said.

Commissioner Hester Benitez expressed concern that a commissioner was already "offering people jobs," but she didn't identify that person.

Museum director Van Shields, who has resigned effective Sept. 2, said, "There is somebody on the commission who has been calling people and talking to them about their future jobs." He, too, refrained from naming names but said employees had told him they'd been contacted.

Commissioners denied having offered anyone jobs.

"No one on the commission is empowered to offer anyone a job," said Commissioner Ragin Craig.

"Talking about a person and a job is different than offering someone a job," Getter said after the meeting.

In June, the County Council replaced the former 21-member commission with its current seven members. County leaders asked the new commission to take a hard look at the museums' finances and staffing plan and eliminate waste.

The commission attended an orientation with staff, and some commissioners have contacted staff to discuss their roles at the museums. At past meetings, commissioners have discussed promoting employees from within to new positions. Sometimes specific employees have been alluded to.

"If someone on this commission says, 'I hope you get this job,' that's one thing," Craig said. In a discussion with an employee, Craig said the experience and expertise of employees might make them suitable for promotion, but anyone who is interested in a position has a chance and should apply.

Baker said after the human resources department recommends candidates, there's nothing wrong with a commissioner sharing his opinion about the candidate. To avoid unfairness, the commission should avoid selecting employees for promotion or discussing who might be suitable, he said.