Office of Budget and Evaluation
Disrict Clerk’s Request for Reorganization
411 Elm Street, 3rd Floor, Dallas, Texas 75202
Part I- Introduction
The District Clerk has requested that he be allowed to reorganize his 243-position Department. This request initiated a thorough analysis by the Office of Budget and Evaluation. The District Clerk provided proposals for new alignments, as well as job descriptions of positions that would be created as a result of the proposed reorganization. The goals of the District Clerk were outlined prior to the initiation of the evaluation and are as follows:
To rewrite certain job descriptions to match current duties
To rewrite certain job descriptions to enhance cross-training within the department
To reduce the overall number of job titles and descriptions
To realign certain supervisory relationships.
The overriding purpose of the reorganization is to mitigate certain ongoing personnel problems which hinder the efficient operation of the office in the opinion of the District Clerk. In particular, during the last five years, the Clerk's Office has experienced a turnover rate each year which ranged from 22% to 34%. A portion of the staff review will be devoted to determining whether or not reducing this rate is likely to occur and to suggest other strategies for reducing the negative effects of this turnover.
Additionally, the Office of Budget and Evaluation reconsidered the strategy for investing in a document management system to replace the current microfilm system; a strategy that had been suggested by the District Clerk and studied by a consultant. The rapid advances in the development of the Internet and the dramatic decline in the cost of technology suggests that periodic review of such emerging technology may reveal that conclusions drawn even one year ago may be obsolete.
Part II- Organizational Analysis
The District Clerk submitted a comprehensive and thoughtfully prepared departmental reorganization plan, developed over several years. The following steps were taken by OBE in developing a recommendation on the proposed reorganization:
Review and understand the mission of the department and each division
Interview department personnel and management to ascertain understanding of mission and adequacy of job descriptions
Review adequacy of performance measures and workload data for the department
Prepare and discuss alternate organizational arrangements
Prepare a list of recommended positions to refer to Personnel for study and classification.
Current Organizational Structure
The District Clerk's Office is currently organized into seven divisions: (a) Records, (b) Criminal, (c) Trust/Accounting, (d) Passports, (e) Information Systems, (f) Civil/Family, and (g) Administration. Each of these divisions performs a distinct function and each division head reports to the District Clerk through the Chief Deputy. The following chart displays the current authorized structure of the District Clerk Department:
The District Clerk's reorganization request makes no changes in the reporting structure shown above. Rather, the changes requested occur within several of the divisions and involve changes in reporting relationships, job descriptions, and, in some cases, wholesale job redesign to accomplish specific purposes.
Summary Of Reorganization Requests
The following paragraphs discuss various categories of changes requested, in order to aid in the discussion and recommendations that follow.
Category 1 - Job Descriptions Inaccurate - The District Clerk has identified - and OBE confirmed - that 66 employees of the department have inaccurate job descriptions. (See Attachment I contains a detailed list). The job descriptions of these employees were last reviewed over ten years ago.
The majority of the employees in this category are Court Clerks, i.e. those employees whose duties involve direct support of a district court. OBE believes that the Senior Court Clerks in these positions did not receive credit for the responsibilities of their positions at the time that these positions were last evaluated. For example, the Senior Court Clerks have responsibility and accountability for all files that come through the court, must continuously train new clerks, and must act in a lead function for the court. None of this is included in the job description for these positions, and it is therefore advisable that these positions be forwarded to Personnel for further evaluation.
Category 2 - Job Descriptions accurate, however grading not based on current job description - The District Clerk has identified 37 positions (see Attachment II) whose job descriptions are accurate although they seek a review of the classification for these positions. In 1994, the job descriptions changed for these positions, however a classification study was not performed at that time. Previous job descriptions are unable to be gathered, and therefore OBE recommends that these positions undergo a classification study by the Personnel Department. Of these 37 positions there are only two job titles, thus a classification study would not take long to complete.
Category 3 - Job Redesign - The District Clerk seeks to modify duties, reporting relationships, and job descriptions for 113 positions (see Attachments III and IV). Of these, the District Clerk expects that 63 will result in reclassification. Attachment IV, in particular, are positions with major functional changes in job duties.
The job reviews requested in Category 1 and 2 above are immediately recommended. The remainder of this analysis focuses on Category 3.
Detailed Reorganization Requests
The following paragraphs discuss the requested changes in job design on a section-by-section basis. An analysis and a recommendation follow each request.
Description - The District Clerk's Records Manager is the principle advisor of records to the District Clerk. The Records Division is responsible for storage, maintenance, and retrieval of all District Court Records used by the Civil, Family, and Criminal Courts, interdepartmental personnel, the legal community and the general public. This division also maintains a computerized fax/billing operation. Staff routinely delivers supplies and documents within the District Clerk's Office. The Records Division photocopies and certifies documents, performs research and retrieves documents for attorneys and the general public as required by the Open Records Act. The Records Division is currently comprised of twenty-six clerical positions supervised by the Records Division Manager and Assistant Manager. The current organization is as follows:
Requested Changes - The District Clerk has requested to reorganize the Records Division from eight functional areas to three functional areas. Under the proposed reorganization the Records Division seeks a change in job titles to decrease the number of job titles that are currently in use from 14 to 4. These job titles would bring all functions of the division together to create a broadened title with steps that increase as duties become more difficult. The District Clerk also requests that one Certified Copy Clerk position is deleted, and that one additional clerical position is transferred to the Criminal Division. The District Clerk's proposal includes transferring three Certified Copy Clerk positions from the Criminal Division to the Records Division due to the fact that the Certified Copy Clerk positions currently perform duties that are related to the functions being performed in the Records Division. Total transactions for this division would result in one additional employee. The proposed structure is illustrated below:
OBE Recommendation - The District Clerk's proposed reorganization is structurally sound and is consistent with other requests made throughout the department. The deletion of the Assistant Manager position to be replaced by line supervisors would give more direct supervision of daily operations within the division. OBE recommends that the proposed organizational structure be adopted.
The District Clerk's request includes broadening job descriptions within the division and implementing a cross-training program that would allow personnel to be used in a variety of functions. While it is possible that the broadening of job descriptions may result in an upgrade in position classification, OBE feels that his would allow for more efficient use of personnel.
The District Clerk no longer participates in Microfilming, and therefore has three positions that are no longer necessary for this function. However, OBE has identified backlogs in both the Criminal and Mezzanine Sections of the division, and therefore recommends that these positions be utilized in these areas of the division. The District Clerk has agreed to utilize these positions to address these backlogs.
Description - In 1997, the Civil and Family Divisions were combined to create one division that would have responsibility for both types of cases. These changes resulted in greater efficiency and reduced customer wait time in these divisions. The Civil/Family Division is made up of four sections that are responsible for separate components of District Court Case Maintenance. The Civil/Family File Desk is responsible for filing cases and collecting fees for both the Civil and Family Courts. The Civil/Family Process Section is responsible for issuing many different types of process from citations to after-judgment writs. The Civil/Tax Courts are responsible for file maintenance of all cases within the Civil and Tax Courts. The Family and IV-D Courts are responsible for file maintenance for all cases within the Family and IV-D Courts. In addition to file maintenance, the IV-D Section is also responsible for issuing its own process and filing IV-D cases.
Requested Changes - The Civil/Family Division would undergo significant functional changes, however would not see any significant change in structure. The functional changes in this division include the broadening of job descriptions in the Process, File Desk, and Courts. This broadening of job descriptions would allow the District Clerk to more fully utilize the personnel within this division. In addition to these changes, the Civil/Family Training positions would be deleted and replaced with Court Specialist positions. These positions would act as a direct oversight of the courts, and would assist the Courts Supervisor in overseeing the daily operations of the Courts. These positions would also fill-in for Court Clerks during absences or turnover situations.
OBE Recommendation - The job description of the Court Clerk I is adequate, however the positions were graded based on previous job descriptions. OBE recommends that these positions be reevaluated based on the current job description. Although OBE does recommend that the Court Clerk I positions be reevaluated by the Personnel Department, we disagree with the inclusion of these clerks under the Civil/Family Clerk II title. It is OBE's opinion that due to excessive turnover and heavy workloads, it would be unlikely that a Court Clerk would be able to function in the duties that would be included in the proposed job description. Under these circumstances, a broadening of job duties would have no effect other than creating pressure for upgrades, without commensurate benefits. OBE would reevaluate this recommendation at a later time if a manageable cross-training plan was established and performance measures to indicate that the plan would be utilized adequately were developed.
Description - The District Clerk's Criminal Division is responsible for the maintenance of all files related to the Magistrate and Criminal District Courts. In addition to this responsibility, the Criminal Division also issues pre- and post-judgment process, as well as completing transcripts for the appellate courts. The Criminal Division operates a Collections Division that is responsible for the collection of overdue fines and fees related to felony cases. Finally, the Criminal Division operates a Bond Forfeiture Section that is responsible for representing the District Clerk at Bail Bond Meetings and collecting bonds that have been forfeited to the court.
Requested Changes - The Criminal Division would make organizational changes that would mirror those that have already taken place in the Civil/Family Division. These changes include the deletion of the Assistant Manager position and the combination of the Process and Bond Forfeiture Sections. The reorganization would create three functional areas within the Criminal Division: Collections, Court Operations, and Court Support.
Collections - This program has proven successful in past years by collecting in excess of $700,000 annually. The District Clerk requested and received 2 additional positions in this section in the FY2000 budget. The addition of these two positions is projected to increase collections for felony court costs and fines. This section would not change as a result of the reorganization.
Court Operations - This section would cover both the Criminal and Magistrate Courts and would create a Court Operations Manager as well as a Criminal Court Supervisor. These changes mirror the changes that have already taken place when the Civil and Family Divisions were combined, and would bring consistency throughout the department. There are 17 Criminal Courts serving Dallas County, and these courts each operate with 2 clerks provided by the District Clerk. There would also be 2 Criminal Court Trainer positions that would be created from existing Criminal Roving Clerk positions. The Evidence Registrar position would fall under this section as well, whereas it previously fell under the Criminal Process Section.
Court Support - The Court Support Section would be a result of the combination of the Criminal Process and Bond Forfeiture Sections. The section would operate under one supervisor as opposed to the current structure that includes two separate supervisors. This section is also responsible for creating transcripts for appeal purposes. The District Clerk requests that one position be transferred from the Records Division to assist in this effort. Three Certified Copy Clerk positions would be transferred to the Records Division as these positions perform functions that are consistent with the mission of the Records Division.
OBE Recommendation - OBE generally concurs with the District Clerk's request in this division. The changes that take place here mirror the successful changes that have already taken place in the Civil/Family Division. By combining sections, the District Clerk will be able to utilize employees more efficiently. By training employees on multiple functions, the Criminal Division will not lose efficiency during absences or turnover situations.
Description - The Trust/Accounting Division is responsible for ensuring that all revenues received from the disposition of cases are transferred, deposited, or invested accurately. This division operates three sections, each responsible for an individual function within the division. The Trust Section is responsible for investing funds that have been ordered by the Court to be held for a specific period of time. The Accounting Section is responsible for ensuring that all funds received are accurate and for auditing cases to identify any funds that have not been collected. The Collections Section is responsible for attempting to collect funds that are past due or that are necessary for disposition of the case. The current organization structure is illustrated below:
Requested Changes - The District Clerk's request further identifies a structural delineation between the three individual sections:
The Trust Section would delete one Investment Clerk II position and replace this position with an Investment Analyst position. The Investment Analyst would be charged with supervision of the section, as well as overall maintenance of the investments made by court order. This position is necessary to bring a degree of professionalism to this section, as well as provide credibility in the instance that this position is called on to testify in court.
The Accounting Division would create an Accounting Supervisor position to oversee the day to day accounting function for the division. Currently this section has 2 Accountant positions and 2 Accounting Clerk positions, along with assistance by 1 part-time employee.
The Collections Section would create new positions whose job descriptions would more accurately reflect the duties being performed in this section. There would also be an Account Resolution Coordinator position established from a current position in order to provide supervision to this section.
OBE Recommendation - OBE agrees with the changes proposed in the District Clerk's request. The deletion of the Assistant Manager position eliminates the one-to-one reporting relationship that is occurring at the top level of the division. This structure would also provide for more accountability within each section and would allow for more direct supervision of day to day activities.
The Passport Division currently operates in three locations. In the two satellite locations, a Lead Clerk position has been established to oversee the daily operations of the location. The Passport Supervisor position is a "working supervisor" position that operates from the downtown location, which also travels when needed among the two remote locations. The current staffing includes two clerks and the supervisor downtown, one Lead Clerk, four full time clerks, and two part-time clerks in the North Dallas location, and one Lead Clerk, one full-time clerk, and one part-time clerk in the East Dallas location:
Requested Changes - The District Clerk has requested changes in titles as follows: Passport Supervisor to Passport Manager, Lead Clerk to Passport Supervisor, and Lead Clerk to Senior Passport Clerk with the understanding that these title changes may lead to changes in the grading of these positions. However, no changes in job description, duties, or supervisory relationships are proposed. Under these circumstances, no grounds exist for a job study and OBE recommends that the District Clerk be allowed to change titles (for consistency throughout the department) without job studies or grade changes.
Description - The District Clerk Administration is charged with oversight of administrative functions within the District Clerk Department. These functions include budgeting, purchasing, and personnel functions. There are four positions within this division, organized as follows:
Requested Changes - The District Clerk seeks to delete the unneeded Senior Secretary position and create a Personnel Analyst position. The District Clerk also requests that the Court Clerk II position be changed to Clerk V and that the job description reflect the actual duties being performed by this position. Furthermore, the request is to change the title of Special Assistant to Budget and Planning Analyst and have the Clerk V position report to this new position. The revised organization chart is as follows:
OBE Recommendation - The Office of Budget and Evaluation concurs with the District Clerk's proposal for a Personnel Analyst on the basis that this is a large department with a high turnover rate, and this position would help the department identify ways to reduce both turnover and grievances. The Court Clerk II position is currently performing duties that are not reflected on the job description for that position, and therefore OBE recommends the Clerk V position for which the job description would match the duties currently being performed.
However, OBE disagrees with the implementation of a Budget and Planning Analyst position and the reporting relationship between the Clerk V and Budget and Planning Analyst positions. The Budget and Planning Analyst position would perform duties nearly identical to those on the job description of the Special Assistant position. Furthermore, the most complicated planning needs of the department appear to relate to computerization (imaging, new Civil Court system) and the department already has a high-level computer specialist added as a part of the "Banner" reorganization. There are no significant changes in function or description that do not appear to be covered by other positions, and therefore OBE does not recommend that this position be forwarded to Personnel for further evaluation. OBE recommends that the Clerk V position continue to report to the Chief Deputy.
Summary Of Reorganization Requests/Recommendations
Table I summarizes each request made by the District Clerk and provides the corresponding recommendation:
Other Findings And Recommendations
In order for this reorganization to work effectively, it will be necessary for communication between divisions to improve greatly. It will also be necessary for communication between employees within the department to improve. OBE has identified occurrences in which improved communication would create a more efficient and effective solution to problems within the department.
Morale within the Family Courts Section of the department is very low. This may be a reason for high turnover and should be immediately addressed.
The North Dallas Passport Facility is unable to operate at maximum efficiency because of the office design. There are six clerks, but only four service windows. In order to improve efficiency and customer wait time OBE recommends creating two additional windows.
There is limited security at the Passport satellite locations. These locations collect large amounts of cash and receive no protection. This could create a hazardous working environment for clerks in these locations.
The Office of Budget and Evaluation would recommend a thorough cross training program be developed in order to meet the goals set forth by the District Clerk in this reorganization request. One of the District Clerk's goals was to provide a base of well-trained employees," which a cross training program would accomplish. In turnover situations employees could be called upon from multiple sections to complete routine tasks and eliminate backlogs.
If the District Clerk is willing to put together a comprehensive training plan, the Commissioners Court should consider adding additional money to the budget for this purpose.
The District Clerk has consistently provided excellent performance measures as requested by the Commissioners Court. Through this reorganization, OBE would like to expand these performance measures to include the divisions that have not previously used performance measures. Table II identifies performance measures that can be used as a guideline for this expansion:
The cost of any reorganization proposal can only be estimated, inasmuch as the final grading has not been completed. However, estimates can be derived to assist the Commissioners Court in making its' decision.
Cost estimates are of two types - short-term impact and long-term impact. The former reflects partial-year budget impact and personnel policies that may limit costs even if individual jobs are re-graded. In particular, an individual in a re-graded job is limited to the maximum in-hire of the new (higher) grade and therefore long-term incumbents in re-graded jobs may already be above this pay amount and receive no increase despite being reclassified.
Longer-term effects of an upgrade, however, reflect the "next generation" of incumbents, who will be brought in at a higher rate than they would otherwise command. Therefore, a long-term impact is likely to be higher than a short-term impact.
The following table summarizes the estimated short-term and long-term costs, for the requested changes and recommended changes. A start-up date of April 1, 2000 is assumed to be the earliest that upgrades can be implemented.
As shown above, the impact of the District Clerk's request on the current budget would be approximately $135,000 based on calculating current salaries against proposed grade changes (or short-term impact). Under OBE's recommendation, this would be reduced to $85,500. This is a result of not recommending the Court Clerk I upgrades, the Passport Division changes, nor the Budget and Planning Analyst position. These calculations are based on proposed grades, and are subject to change according to actual grades recommended by the Personnel Department.
Long-term costs for this are calculated by comparing step 2 of the current pay grade versus step 2 of the proposed pay grade. Although these costs are not expected to ever be recognized, it is important to understand that there is a potential for these costs. The District Clerk's request has a long-term cost of $462,000, whereas OBE's recommendation would reduce these costs to $400,000. Again, it is likely that many years would pass before the full effect of these costs would be fully incorporated into County spending.
Part III - Imaging
In FY99, the County engaged a consultant to evaluate the potential of imaging to replace the current paper-storage system. The same consultant's engagement was extended to encompass the County Clerk's Office to ensure that coordination between two similar functions was maintained.
The Consultant's report recommended the purchase of document management hardware and software beginning in the District Clerk's Family and IV-D area. However, the consultant's report was generally unconvincing and the effort has been given a lower priority until more definitive data is gathered.
The Office of Budget and Evaluation reviewed the consultant's report and review the cost-benefit analysis for a limited portion of the consultant's scope.
One major observation that resulted from this review is as follows:
Although the Family Courts have the greatest "convenience need" for an imaging system (i.e. they have the most paper movement and retrieval need), they are the least likely to support a cost-effective replacement of a manual system with a document management system. This fact stems from the very small microfilm cost associated with family court cases. Due to the lack of these costs, it is probably far more cost effective to continue a manual system, even though a manual system is less convenient.
On the other hand, it is Civil cases, with their huge microfilming costs and their use by large law firms that can probably support the first phase of a document imaging system on a cost-neutral basis. Table I extracts certain costs from the consultant's report that pertain to the Civil Courts Imaging System. The following table summarizes their results:
Obviously if these numbers are even roughly correct, an immediate and long-term efficiency is evidenced by replacing microfilm with a Digital Document Management System.
The above calculations assume that the transition to imaging is staff-neutral at worst. That is, microfilm-related staff (not included in the $365,000 contract payment) will be replaced by imaging staff. Furthermore, the calculation assumes that revenues will not be effected. That is, that subscription fees from law firms will be at least equal to the current fee charged for copies. Both of these assumptions are easily tested during the requirements/definition phase of the project.
The initial cost of $550,000 will be offset by the deletion of the microfilm contract at a savings of $365,000 annually. This will provide a payback time between 1.5 and 2 years. Ongoing costs for this project would be $122,299 annually, which again would be offset by the deletion of the microfilm contract.
The issue of cooperation between the District Clerk and County Clerk has often been raised. The Office of Budget and Evaluation concludes that the most successful computer system implementations tend to be those that minimize the need for cooperation among departments headed by elected officials. Examples are the Finance System (essentially controlled by the Auditor's Office) and the Elections System, which had a generally good records of success. Likewise, the County Clerk's imaging of real estate records has been trouble free. However, the early 90's attempt to change the accounting system failed, as did the Banner implementation, essentially due to a lack of clear authority.
Accordingly, OBE recommends that a document system for the District Clerk Civil Courts be pursued on a stand-alone basis, with the expansion to the Family Court area and perhaps to the County Clerk, being a secondary activity.
Part IV - Recommendations
The Office of Budget and Evaluation provides the following recommendation:
Related to Job Studies - The tables (I-IV) at the end of this document contain recommended job studies to be conducted by the Personnel Department. Each table is labeled as to the justifications for further study.
Related to Performance Measures - The District Clerk should provide the Commissioner's Court with proposed performance measures for all sections except Criminal Collections and Passports. These proposals should be discussed at the January 11, 2000 Performance Forum.
Related to Imaging - OBE recommends that digital imaging be pursued further by establishing a committee to develop a Request For Proposal within thirty days of this meeting. In doing this, the District Clerk and potential vendors understand that there is no commitment of funds to this project. The RFP is merely a method of gaining a learned analysis of the problem and potential cost effective solutions with minimum risk. Vendors would be asked within ninety days to address the issue and to give feedback on the necessary equipment and functionality of the project. Vendors would be invited to visit the District Clerk's Office and to determine the best way to implement this plan. After all proposals have been evaluated, the District Clerk would come back to the Court and request the funds necessary for the project with all costs and benefits quantified, thus allowing the Court to determine if the project should continue.
Related to Turnover - The District Clerk should continue to collect data in the form of exit-interviews as they have done in the past. This data should be analyzed to determine if any correlation between departmental changes and turnover exist. The District Clerk should report back to the Commissioner's Court on the status of turnover six months after the implementation of the proposed reorganization.
Job Description Inaccurate
Re-Grading Requested Due To Elapsed Time From Last Study
Modified Job Descriptions Requested
Major Functional Changes Required
Detailed Imaging Costs