ST. PETE BEACH — In a move reminiscent of high school dress code crackdowns, the city's human resources director will remind city employees this week that, they too, need to dress appropriately.
"Business casual, Monday through Thursday, has turned into beach attire, and casual Friday attire has turned into roll-out-of-bed attire," Gary Behnke wrote in a recent e-mail sent to department directors.
Behnke said some employees, including some managers, "are pushing the envelope."
"Nobody's coming in wearing T-shirts. It's not an odorous problem, it's just tidiness of appearances," he said last week.
Behnke mainly wants people to iron their clothes.
"It's an issue of looking professional. Whether it's economic or lack of caring, probably both, we need to start getting this back under control," Behnke told city administrators.
He plans to meet with the city's managers Thursday to discuss the dress issue and ask them to remind their employees to dress appropriately.
When asked if City Manager Mike Bonfield was on his list of untidy people, Behnke quickly said Bonfield "always looks very professional," even on Casual Fridays, when he sometimes wears Dockers shorts and polo shirts.
Bonfield laughed when told of Behnke's assessment of his clothing style.
"Appearance is important to Gary. I think he just wants to remind people that on the beach our mindset is often more casual than most places," Bonfield said.
Casual Friday has been in effect for city workers for more than a decade but is not a formal policy.
"Staff is allowed to wear jeans on Fridays, but it has snuck in a couple of times during the rest of the week," Behnke said. "Gradually, it got a little looser over time, and some newer employees are pushing the envelope a little bit."
Directors should not be wearing sweat shirts, he said. Women should not wear short shorts or revealing tops.
"I don't think unironed shirts or slacks are appropriate," Behnke added.
He has distributed copies of the city's dress code to department managers and plans to go over it point by point at his meeting Thursday.
According to the city dress code, employees must "observe normal and reasonable standards of personal hygiene" and "present a professional appearance at all times."
The code also requires that the length of "hair, beards and mustaches" should not create safety problems and "must be maintained in a clean, neat and orderly fashion."
The code allows the city to send an employee home without pay to change his or her clothes. If that doesn't work, Behnke said, there could be formal disciplinary action.
"I hope it doesn't go that far," he said.