The Salt Lake Office of Human Resource Management, once a division under Mayor Palmer DePaulis, is now a full-fledged department following a unanimous vote by the City Council.

Although city officials said Human Resources has been the equivalent of a department under director Karen Suzuki-Hashimoto since its creation, the office was never formally recognized as such until Tuesday.The department was created in 1987 after a task force recommended several offices, including personnel, employee and labor relations and risk management be combined under the Human Resources label.

Department approval, recommended by DePaulis, was delayed when the council stalled the issue last week and waited to hear staff reports during a committee of the whole meeting Thursday.

At the meeting, DePaulis' chief of staff, Mike Zuhl, told the council Human Resources should be recognized as a department so it could have the "clout" for dealing with various policy issues.

But Councilwoman Florence Bittner said officially forming a new department would be simply creating another area for which the city must dip into its already shallow coffers.

"Down the road it could have some significant budget impact," she said.

But Zuhl said the mayor and Suzuki-Hashimoto have no plans to expand the department. Council budget analyst Cam Caldwell said improved training programs championed by the department will actually save tax dollars.

Controlling personnel matters and fiscal concerns could be done much better "with a strong human-resources management system," Caldwell told the council.

Additionally, recognizing Human Resources as a department was recommended in an audit received by the council in 1986, Caldwell said in a memo to the council. Human Resources would be a "strong support service" to the city, the audit said.