UPDATE: Gov.-elect Nixon making employees re-apply

Thursday, December 11, 2008 | 3:46 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov.-elect Jay Nixon is asking hundreds of state employees to justify their jobs or lose them.

Nixon’s gubernatorial transition team has sent letters to about 600 employees whose jobs are not covered by the state merit system. The letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press says employees must re-apply for their jobs by Dec. 23 if they want a chance to keep their positions.

“This review is an important step to make sure that our government is operating as efficiently and responsibly as possible in these tough economic times,” said Nixon spokesman Oren Shur.

Some employees might be retained, some might be replaced and others might have their positions eliminated, Shur said

Although it’s not unusual for new governors to replace top level employees, Nixon’s letter appears to affect a wider range of employees — potentially from division directors down to administrative assistants.

The pool includes not only political appointees but some career government employees who have risen to positions not covered by Missouri’s standardized job and salary structures or protected from at-will firings.

The letter directs employees to submit their resumes and cover letters through an Internet site. The Web site also asks them to describe their current job duties, their qualifications and “the importance of your current position to the mission of your agency.”

In essence, employees are asked not only why they should remain in their jobs but why their jobs should remain in state government.

Employees are told to continue working unless informed otherwise, noting that some job decisions might be made after Nixon takes office on Jan. 12. But if employees do not provide the requested information by the Dec. 23 deadline, “it will be assumed that you do not desire to continue in your current position under the new administration,” the letter states.

Missouri has nearly 63,000 employees, according to information provided Thursday by the personnel division within the Office of Administration. Slightly more than 5,000 of them are in positions not covered by the state’s job classification system, but some of those still have comparable appeal rights if they are fired.

Nixon, a Democrat, will be succeeding Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. But Nixon’s approach is broader than that used four years ago when Blunt took over following 12 years of Democratic governors.

Ken McClure led Blunt’s transition team and then served for a while as his chief of staff. He said some employees not covered by the merit system were asked to re-apply for their jobs, if they wanted to remain in them. But the total was in the dozens, not hundreds.

“We did it on a selective basis,” McClure said. “It was not done on a blanket basis, across the board.”

It’s tough deciding who should stay and who should go, McClure said.

“They’re dealing with the same thing we did, because it was a change in party,” McClure said, “but a lot of folks have been there a long time, through both parties.”

Shur said Nixon’s transition team sent letters dated Tuesday to certain employees in the departments of Agriculture; Corrections; Economic Development; Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration; Health and Senior Services; Labor and Industrial Relations; Public Safety; Revenue; Social Services; and the Office of Administration.

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