GETTING RESULTS: Civil Service Commission Acknowledges Errors But Questions Persist

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GETTING RESULTS: Civil Service Commission Acknowledges Errors But Questions Persist

October 16, 2012 - 21:45

On October 11, 2012, a story was published by Talk of the Sound which indicated that "several violations of law may have occurred" with the provisional appointment of Kevin McKenna to the position of Property Code Inspector in the City's Building Department. According to City records, Mr. McKenna was hired on July 28, 2012.

Records obtained through a FOIL request by Talk of the Sound indicate that in April of 2012, Michael Freimuth, the appointing authority for the Building Department, advised Civil Service Administrator Y. Jeanett Medina that a vacancy needed to filled for a Property Code Inspector. The position is in the competitive class which means that it must be filled by examination. However, according to the records, the position was filled provisionally. In other words, no test was given.

A job announcement seeking the provisional appointment of a Property Code Inspector was posted on the City's website on May 3, 2012. Mr. McKenna submitted an application for the position on the same day, and was subsequently hired in July. Once hired, as per State Civil Service Law, Ms. Medina was required to begin the process of ordering a civil service examination for the position. Instead of doing so, she informed the City Civil Service Commission during a public meeting that McKenna was taken off an eligible list that is currently in effect. She made the point three times, stating that he was taken off a list, as the video of the meeting shows.

This was not the case. There was no list at all.

In the agenda for the October 17, 2012 City Civil Service Commission meeting is a statement which indicates that the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission was mis-informed regarding the appointment on Mr. McKenna. It acknowledges that McKenna was in fact a provisional appointment who needed to be tested and that he was not taken off any active eligible lists.

New Rochelle Civil Service Agenda for October 17, 2012 Meeting:

Correction to previous meeting information: at last meeting the Commission was informed that there was a Probationary appointment in the Building department with the title of Property Code Inspector. That was a Provisional Appointment not a probationary appointment. At the time the position was vacant we did not have a list. The job announcement was posted for 10 days and the candidate was selected as a provisional appointment. The test was been ordered and will be given in the future.

Related to all of this, were concerns raised by Talk of the Sound immediately after the September 28th New Rochelle State Civil Service Commission meeting.

City Manager Charles B. Strome has since responded to those concerns:

1. The lack of a public comment period in Civil Service Commission meetings.

It is not required that the Commission or other governmental entity have a public comment period at each meeting. However if they are going to allow public comment, it has to be available for all. I have directed staff to develop a public comment period policy for this Commission and implement it on a regular basis. In other words, they need to develop a policy as to if and when they will solicit public comment and make it available to all. This public comment section is separate from any required public hearings that the Commission may have to hold.

2. Per Amy Paulin's amendment to the Open Meeting Law the Civil Service Commission is required to post all documents discussed or referenced during the open meeting -- they are not even posting the agenda.

The Civil Service Commission agenda should be finalized with specific items for consideration at each meeting and be available at least one week prior to the meeting. The agenda should be posted on the city web site one week before the meeting and be available to the public at the meeting. I have directed staff to implement this practice.

3. The Civil Service Commission should set their meetings annually on a regular published schedule.

I Agree With This Point And Have Directed Staff To Determine Regular Meeting Dates And Times For The Commission's Meetings.

4. It would be nice if they could meet when the public can better attend just like most other public bodies in New Rochelle however given their need to interact with City Hall departments I can understand why they might want to meet during the day -- maybe they could hold a meeting once a quarter at 7 p.m. or, since their meetings are very short hold their meetings prior to a city council meeting at 6 p.m. when department heads are already staying late.

While this would be ideal, the meeting times need to be based on availability of city staff and Commission members. I do not wish to incur costs to the city relative to overtime or compensatory leave simply to have a meeting after business hours.

5. The Civil Service Commission meetings should be broadcast just like all the other meetings, especially due to item #4.

There are no plans to broadcast these meetings at this time. There is a cost to broadcasting all meetings of city committees, commissions and boards.

6. The Civil Service Commission should be the custodian of all civil service records.

I have asked for further information on this item.

Finally, all of these meetings that are being broadcast should be recorded and then put up on the website and archived as is done with City Council and School District meetings.

See #5 above (There are no plans to broadcast these meetings at this time. There is a cost to broadcasting all meetings of city committees, commissions and boards.)

Until such time as the City of New Rochelle agrees to videotape and broadcast the meetings of the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission, Talk of the Sound will seek to record as many meetings as practical and upload the video to YouTube along with documents from the meetings.