Civil Service Watch: Recent Hiring of New Rochelle Property Code Inspector May Have Involved Multiple Violations of NYS Law

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At a recent meeting of the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission, Civil Service Administrator Ms. Y. Jeanett Medina inaccurately stated the circumstances of the recent hiring of a Property Code Inspector for the Building Department raising questions as whether the City of New Rochelle violated New York State law in filling the position this past summer.

At a September 28, 2012 meeting of the NRCSC, Medina advised the board of the probationary appointment of Mr. Kevin McKenna as a Property Code Inspector for the Building Department. She stated that Mr. McKenna was "originally appointed on July 30, 2012" from the lists and claims "he was taken off a list we have right now" and, for a third time, states that McKenna was "was taken off a list".

A review of records obtained by Talk of the Sound under the Freedom of Information Law does not indicate that McKenna was hired off a civil service list, a conclusion later confirmed by a senior administrative official appointed by New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson.

The City of New Rochelle fills many of its positions through the Civil Service Process which is guided by New York State Civil Service Law. The law is in place to help ensure that the hiring process is competitive and fair. Generally, the City uses examinations to measure a potential candidate's "merit" and "fitness" for the particular position. Taking an examination is the start of the hiring process that may lead to a person getting a job with the City.

After each exam, the City establishes an "eligible to hire" list. This list consists of all candidates who pass the exam by rank order and is available to each City department with open positions in the corresponding title. Candidates are contacted for interviews as the needs of these departments require. New York State Civil Service Law requires agencies to review the top three scorers remaining on the list for appointment to a vacant position, a procedure known as the One-in-Three rule. Usually a list is active for four years.

Some positions available within the City do not require an examination. These positions tend to require special skills that make recruitment for the positions particularly difficult.

In the case of the Property Code Inspector position, it is a position which is classified as "competitive" which, under New York State Law, requires that the successful applicant take and pass a civil service exam in order to hold the position. On July 28, 2012, Kevin C. McKenna was hired by the Building Department as a Property Code Inspector. McKenna was hired on a provisional basis and was thus required to pass a civil service exam.

Section 65(2) of New York State Civil Service Law states that "[the municipality must] cause a civil service examination to be ordered" and provides for a 30-day window during which an exam must ordered. With a hire date of July 28, 2012, McKenna's window closed on August 28, 2012, a month prior to the September 28, 2012 Civil Service meeting. This closing date was confirmed by City Manager Charles B. Strome.

At the 6:10 mark in the video, Medina reviews "probationary appointments from lists" and makes various claims about McKenna being hired from an "eligible to hire" list.

The FOIL request submitted by Talk of the Sound turned up an examination order for a Property Code Inspector test which was more than five years old. According to City records, the eligible list for that exam was established in August 2007 and expired in August 2011. McKenna could not have been taken from this list because the list expired about a year earlier.

City Clerk Bennie Giles, appointed by Bramson, has now admitted as much. After he initially claimed that the July 2012 minutes for the certification of Mr. McKenna had not been prepared at the time of the FOIL request on September 11, 2012. Giles later admitted that there are no minutes regarding McKenna's certification because he was not taken off any list.

From: "Giles, Bennie"
To: john imburgia
Cc: "City Manager, Chuck Strome"; "Law Department, Kathleen Gill"
Sent: Friday, October 5, 2012 3:24 PM
Subject: REsponse: FOIL

Mr. Imburgia,

You note to Mr. Strome was passed along to me for further investigation and response.

In checking with our Civil Service Department we did not have a Code Inspector list, therefore there was no certification. Secondly, you requested “Civil Service minutes proceeding the certification of the property Code Inspector hired on 07/28/2012 (Item # 3)”. Since there was no certification the Civil Service Department is unclear as to what minutes you seek, please be specific as to which meeting you are seeking minutes. Lastly, Item # 5 requests the date and time of the next Civil Service Commission meeting and that information is posted on the City Website. I have provided you this link to that posting

I hope this answers your questions, if you need further information please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Take care and enjoy the weekend.
Bennie Giles
Records Access Officer

Giles statement on October 5, 2012 that there was no Code Inspector list would appear to directly contradict the repeated claims by Medina at the September 28 CSC Meeting that McKenna's name was taken of a list.

Compounding matters, McKenna's provisional appointment also failed to conform to State law. According to Section 65(1) of State Civil Service Law, the candidate for the position of Property Code Inspector was to be nominated by the "appointing authority". In this case, that would be now-departed Development Commissioner Michael Freimuth. The City failed to produce any records under FOIL indicating that Freimuth nominated McKenna for the position.

State law further required that the Civil Service Commission certify the appointment and ensure Mr. McKenna possessed the qualifications for the position. The City failed to produce any records showing that McKenna was certified for the provisional position.

Civil Service Commissions alone have the authority to reduce, waive or modify job requirements for a prospective candidate. The official job posting for Property Code Inspector stated that candidates were required to possess at least two years of work experience. McKenna's job application indicated less than one year of relevant work experience. In order to hire McKenna it would have been necessary to waive the work experience requirements. City records obtained under FOIL do not indicate any such waiver was sought or approved.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Mr. Taylor's picture
Mr. Taylor on Wed, 05/01/2013 - 15:44

this is very interesting due to over the years I, myself have applied for jobs. Paid and passed exams with the City Of New Rochelle which I, met all requirements but not only didn't receive an interview, through asking other city workers was told many positions are pre filled..

John Imburgia on Thu, 05/02/2013 - 11:30

I am hoping someday people will realize that the City is NOT hiring in accordance with the merit and fitness clause of the NYS Constitution and instead hiring on the basis of who knows who. Most positions are being filled "provisionally" which means they can hire anyone they want without giving a test. Then, after the provisional is hired, they give the exam. So taking the exam is a waste of time as they already made their selection.

Moreover, the City had a residency rule in place but for many years they didn't comply with it and people were rejected for jobs illegally. This Civil Service department is corrupt and makes up the rules as they go along. Stay tuned, more interesting fact will shortly be posted on this website.