In The News › Signatures gathered to try to prevent Loyola president from joining Civil Service Commission

Jul 19, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Civil Service, Orleans Parish

Signatures gathered to try to prevent Loyola president from joining Civil Service Commission

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
By Michelle Krupa
The Times-Picayune

A modest campaign has emerged at New Orleans City Hall to keep the president of Loyola University off the five-person panel that oversees employment policy for rank-and-file workers.

A City Council committee this week swiftly blessed the nomination of the Rev. Kevin Wildes to the Civil Service Commission to replace Bill Forrester Jr., a lawyer who has served on the board since 1993.

With a final vote expected Thursday, more than 130 city employees whose jobs fall under the commission’s purview have signed a petition asking the council to retain Forrester as “the most logical candidate” to continue to represent their interests.

Randolph Scott, a 38-year city employee who initiated the signature drive, told the council’s governmental affairs committee on Monday that the workers believe Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants Wildes on the board to push an agenda that they fear could strip job protections, beginning with a policy that lets laid-off employees claim the jobs of workers with less seniority in similar posts anywhere else in city government.

The commission is slated to vote on the so-called “bumping” policy in September.

“It is our understanding that the mayor is attempting to have an unprecedented influence on the makeup of the Civil Service Commission by imposing his choice and influence,” Scott said.

“The mayor’s recommendations are viewed as unfair and (have) the potential of being partial and biased if accepted by the City Council,” he said. “We do not want to return to the days of the spoils system with the association of corruption, political patronage and partisan activities.”

Councilwoman Susan Guidry, the chairwoman of the committee, forwarded Wildes’ nomination to the full council, noting that “he is, of course, of impeccable character and has done wonderful service for New Orleans in the past.”

Landrieu said in October that if the commission didn’t back his proposed changes to civil service rules, he would name new members who would go along with his ideas. The mayor, however, has no official power to name commissioners.

Under city law, the body’s five members serve overlapping six-year terms, with one elected by fellow employees and the others nominated by local university presidents. The school officials each deliver three recommendations in order of preference to the council, which votes on the appointments.

In an odd twist, Wildes, who last year offered nominations on behalf of Loyola, is the top choice of Tulane University President Scott Cowen. Next on the list are Robert Vorhoff and Forrester.

Wildes, a bioethicist who played a key role in establishing the city’s Ethics Review Board, said Tuesday that he discussed his nomination briefly with Landrieu, telling the mayor that if the council appoints him to the civil service board, he would resign from the Public Belt Railroad Commission.

Landrieu last year named Wildes — along with Cowen and Marvalene Hughes, then president of Dillard University — to the board of the embattled city-owned railroad.

The mayor in a prepared statement Tuesday said Wildes recently “asked me how he could help serve the city and suggested civil service.”

“I appreciate his willingness to help improve city government,” Landrieu said, adding: “Reforming the civil service system is critical to improving the quality of service the residents of New Orleans expect and deserve.”

Wildes said he is aware of several reports, including one by the watchdog Bureau of Governmental Research, that call for a major overhaul of civil service policies. “My (concern) is not about any particular rule, but it’s more about how the whole damned thing is functioning and how do we improve it,” he said.

As for the changes to the “bumping” rule, Wildes said he has not researched the issue and has “no position on it, whatsoever.”

Jul 19, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Civil Service, Orleans Parish

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