Fulton plans to start random drug tests for employees

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

FULTON – The Fulton Board of Aldermen is considering implementing random drug screenings for city employees.
During last week’s regularly scheduled board meeting, city officials agreed Fulton should adopt some sort of drug and alcohol policy for its employees, but debated the finer details.
As a way of getting started, Mayor Paul Walker presented the board with a copy of Mississippi State University’s drug and alcohol policy, which the mayor said closely meets the city’s needs.
City attorney Ray O’Neal called it a starting point, and added that aldermen could modify the details in any way they saw fit.
“This is a good, thorough policy,” O’Neal said. “As far as the policy goes, you might want to debate a few things before just accepting it. But, this kind of gives you some talking points.”
The policy follows state guidelines, dictating that employees are to be tested at random by an independent research group. The city is only alerted if an employee is taking some form of narcotic.
“Generally, I think this policy is pretty good,” Walker said. The board agreed that the bones of the policy did suit the city’s needs.
It’s what happens to an employee who tests positive for drugs that sparked a light debate.
“Will there be any options for somebody who tests positive,” asked Alderman Hayward Wilson, questioning if that person might be allowed to enter rehab rather than losing his or her job. He suggested it might be unfair for a long-time employee with a good track record be fired for a single offense.
Alderman Kevin Nolan agreed that the board should be able to use some discretion when choosing what happens to an employee who violates the drug and alcohol policy.
“You might have good guys who have just made a mistake,” Nolan said. “But, they’re good workers and you don’t want to lose them.”
According to Walker, the example policy contains the stipulation that city officials may decide the ultimate fate of an employee who tested positive for drugs.
“It looks like we can handle it any way we want to,” Walker said. He added that, once the policy is accepted, it won’t go into effect for 30 days, theoretically giving employees a time to drop any bad habits they might have before random testing begins.
In the end, O’Neal suggested the board table it until the exact wording of the policy was in place. The board voted to do just that, but agreed that, inevitably, a drug policy would be adopted.
“We know we want to implement this; we just haven’t decided on the language, yet,” Nolan said.
Working overtime
The Fulton board has also decided to change the way it handles city employees’ overtime hours.
The board voted to do away with compensatory time for city employees who work more than 40 hours a week. Currently, employees who work beyond a full-time work week can choose to either be paid time-and-a-half in overtime or take comp time, which allows them to take off work at a later time with overtime pay.
The board voted to pare down the options; now, the city will simply provide overtime pay for employees who work overtime hours. According to the board, this will simplify the process of compensating employees who work beyond their normal work week and prevent employees from garnering massive amounts of overtime.
“I would think that, instead of giving them comp time, if an employee works overtime he gets paid overtime,” Nolan said.
The board agreed, and voted appropriately.
“At the end of the day, the employees are still getting their money,” Walker said.

Adam Armour can be reached at (662) 862-3141 or adam.armour@journalinc.com.