In The News › Critics blast mayor’s plan to overhaul civil service

Apr 21, 2014

Source: FOX 8

Filed under: Civil Service, Orleans Parish

Critics blast mayor’s plan to overhaul civil service

FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

By Sabrina Wilson

FOX 8

April 21, 2014

Mayor Mitch Landrieu faces a wall of opposition as he seeks to overhaul the city’s civil service system.

Critics said during a public hearing held by the Civil Service Commission that the changes would infuse political influence into the personnel system. But the Landrieu administration insists civil service protections would not be eroded.

“What I hear about politics, that’s all this is, that’s all that this amounts, a grab for power,” said attorney and resident Joel Loeffelholz, who opposes what the mayor proposes.

“This is a win-win for the employees and for the citizens of New Orleans,” said Laura Politz, Chair of Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, which supports the package of changes the mayor has put forth.

The civil service meeting in city council chambers was packed and with growing skepticism by some in the community, the Landrieu administration was quick to issue a disclaimer during the hours-long presentation.

“This plan does not eliminate the Civil Service Department,” said Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin.

The mayor is proposing more than 30 rule changes which he said will result in better hiring, better training, and better pay within city government.

Department heads who serve at the pleasure of the mayor would have more flexibility in the hiring and promotions process and in the rewarding of city workers. Landrieu also wants to create a minimum wage for city employees of $10.10 an hour.

“So that our city government is a great place to work for all of our employees and we can provide great service to all of our citizens who are counting on city hall to provide great service to the customers here who are the residents in the city of New Orleans,” said Kopplin.

But critics said the pay issue aside, the mayor would have too much control. Leaders of the police and fire unions are fighting against the administration in terms of the proposed changes.

“When we look at the turning back the clock as I call it to the old days of Huey or Earl Long …Civil Service needs the protections, or the ability to be that insulator between us and the administration,” said Nick Felton, President of the Fire Fighters Association of New Orleans.

“Nothing about these proposed rules or reforms would make this a great place to work,” said Attorney Eric Hessler, who represents the Police Association of New Orleans.

Police organizations said they have been down this road before.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back in 1979, the reason we walked off the job is because the mayor attempted to change civil rules,” stated Jim Gallagher of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Chief Ronal Serpas is supported of the changes, said an NOPD spokesman.

Critics are also concerned about a proposed change that would eliminate the so called “Rule of Three,” policy which requires city department heads to consider the top three candidates whose ranking includes test scores.

“Especially when they’re going to select from a list of employees and want to select from the bottom and not from the top, that cannot happen,” said Randolph Scott, an opponent of the changes and advocate for current city employees.

The Bureau of Governmental Research and the New Orleans Business Council are among the groups that are supportive of the mayor’s proposals.

“Modernization of the city Civil Service system is in full accord with the movement toward more effective government and brings our city in line with other cities across the country,” said Coleman Ridley of the New Orleans Business Council.

Some portions of the mayor’s plan will require approval by the city council.

“The $10.10 and some of the other pay proposals that would increase wages for city employees, both require council approval,” said Kopplin.

Some critics, including the Concerned Classified City Employees, Inc., suggest that some of the mayor’s agenda runs afoul of the city charter and the Louisiana Constitution. But Kopplin denies that.

Still it remains a very divisive issue.

“Do not allow this mayor to return this city to a spoils and patronage system,” said Gallagher.

The commission said it wants as much public input as possible before taking a vote. Kopplin said a vote would not happen before May.

Apr 21, 2014

Source: FOX 8

Filed under: Civil Service, Orleans Parish

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