MEA President Stu Eber submitted the following editorial document to The Chief. If you have an online suscription with The Chief, you can review the actual news copy version.
Letter to the Editor
Letter: Back to Civil Service
Posted: Monday, October 20, 2014 5:30 pm
The civil-service-merit system in New York City has suffered from neglect for the past 20 years (see “City Wants Extension Until 2016 to Move Out Its Provisionals”, October 17 issue of The Chief). Fortunately, this venerable institution that brought down Boss Tweed and his patronage pals in the 19th century has withstood deliberate attacks throughout the last 150 years to remain the bulwark of good government in our city.
The Bloomberg administration’s 2008 plan to comply with the Long Beach decision was not fully implemented, although the decrease from 37,000 provisional employees to 22,500 deserves recognition for the efforts of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
However, there are several managerial titles that require immediate attention, in particular Computer Systems Manager (1,009 provisionals), Administrative Director of Social Services (412), Administrative Engineer (367), Administrative Education Officer (299), Administrative Accountant (109) and Administrative Architect (70).
Most of these 2,266 managerial employees were provisionally appointed over 10 years ago based on their job performance in the supervisory title immediately below the administrative title. These people are conflicted between wanting the job security earned from being certified from the list of candidates passing the promotion exam and risking losing their job to a subordinate who scores higher than they did on the exam. Their agencies are reluctant to have to bump them based on a civil-service list. This is the very personal and administrative turmoil that the neglect of the past 20 years is causing managers and the city.
All provisional employees, regardless of title, have similar challenges. Twelve thousand one hundred and sixty-four of the 22,479 provisional employees (54 percent) are in only six of the 74 agencies —Department of Education (non-pedagogical 4,111), New York City Transit Authority (2,598), New York City Housing Authority (1,727), Department of Parks & Recreation (1,357), Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (1,211) and Human Resources Administration (1,160). To absorb this many changes in a two-year period will represent a challenge to those agencies’ managerial acumen and possibly disrupt services they provide the public. Once again, this could have been avoided 15 years ago if the city had met its legal civil-service exam responsibility.
Many provisionals now face the limbo of non-competitive titles. There are no exams for these technical titles, hence no civil-service protection for certified employees and the opportunity for political skullduggery to replace the previous administration’s staff with the new administration’s political supporters. While Mayors and their senior staff must be able to choose the top-level appointees to meet their needs, those below Assistant Commissioner do not need to have this kind of loyalty to the administration’s agenda. The much-maligned permanent bureaucracy is what keeps this city functioning during transitions, tragedies and crises. Allowing more of these jobs to become non-competitive is a dangerous practice.
We hope the new administration uses this moment to bring the city back on the civil-service-merit-system track. All labor organizations stand together with our eyes wide open to watch their actions.
President, New York City Managerial Employees Association