Around Town | September 9, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 9, 2011

Around Town

BRAIN DRAIN ... Palo Alto likes its retired city workers — so much so, that it rehires them at a higher rate than any other city in Santa Clara County. According to a recent report from the county, 5.7 percent of the city's employees are people who retired and were then rehired (for other cities in the county, the average was 1.6 percent). The practice of rehiring retired workers faced some scrutiny after newspaper reports found some instances of employees "double dipping" by retiring, cashing out all their vacations and bonuses, and then returning to work while continuing to collect their pension. But the county's Civil Grand Jury recently issued a report on the matter and found that in most cases, rehiring retirees "appears to be a prudent way to secure highly skilled talent for short-term tasks at a relatively low cost to economically strapped municipalities and does not in itself appear to be a barrier to hiring new workers." In Palo Alto, the rehiring of retirees is particularly popular for several reasons. With revenues falling, the city has been shaving away at workers' benefits and instituting new requirements for employees to share medical and pension costs. These factors led many employees to retire over the past two years, leaving "a rapid and unprecedented municipal 'brain drain'," according to a report from Human Resources Assistant Michele Dallara. The city's plummeting tax revenues also threw a wrench into the city's "succession planning" by forcing the council to trim positions instead of creating training plans. The city, according to Dallara's report, faced a "significant exodus of workers with expertise and institutional knowledge" and ended up rehiring retirees for such positions as deputy fire chief, police investigators and managers in Public Works, Planning and Community Environment, and Human Resources. The City Council is scheduled to approve the staff response to the grand jury report on Monday night.

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