Proposed Civil Service changes taken under advisement

Published 10:50 am Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has put a proposed amendment to the city’s civil service regulations under the scrutiny of the Civil Service Commission. /‘‘

“I’m told I’m out of order in the sense that most of the time previous mayors have gone before their boards and got approval (of changes in the law) and then come here,” Flaggs said, adding he believed the proposed change warranted taking it to the commission for review.

“We’ll look over your proposal and we’ll try to be very fair,” commission chairman Joe B. Graham Jr. told Flaggs at the close of the 30-minute special meeting.

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The amendment, which Flaggs presented at the Aug. 7 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, changes the present law to allow civil service employees in the police and fire departments who are appointed to non-civil service positions like chief and deputy the opportunity to return to their previous positions if they are not re-appointed to their office by a new board.

Under the current
regulations, a chief or assistant chief must resign in good standing to be reinstated to the civil service employment register and remain on the list for one year. If a new administration comes in and does not reappoint them, they cannot reapply to get on the civil service register.

According to the mayor’s proposal, appointed chiefs and deputy chiefs who are not retained by a new administration will go to the top of the civil service list and they will be given priority if there is a vacancy in their department under civil service.

If there is no vacancy, the individual is reinstated at the top of the civil service employment register and would remain eligible for one year.

The amendment also applies to other appointed positions, such as fire inspector or training officer, which are filled from the ranks of the department.

The amendment, Flaggs told the commission, would allow younger, qualified firefighters or police officers to fill a top administrative position in the department because they would be able to return to a civil service position in their department.

Under the current system, he said, a younger person who qualifies for a position like deputy chief might balk at taking a higher position out of fear that the next administration might replace him and he could lose his present job and pension.

Besides protecting jobs, he said, the amendment would help create a career ladder and prepare qualified people to take administrative positions in the future.

“I think it is unfair for someone with 15 years left in the retirement system but can’t go up because of the fact that if he goes up and is removed he jeopardizes his employment unless he finds another state position,” he said. “It will give recruitment a better opportunity.”

He said the city serves as a training ground for people to go to other jobs “because they’re locked in. There’s no upward mobility.”

Commission chairman Joe Graham Jr. said previous administrations have allowed former chiefs and deputy chiefs to return to their prior civil service positions.

“It has been a courtesy, but it has never been mandated in the rules,” City Attorney Nancy Thomas said.

“What the rule changes propose is that these civil servants that might be qualified for positions wouldn’t risk their livelihood should another administration come in and not want them to be chief any more,” she said, “that they shall be reinstated to the re-employment list and should a vacancy become available be re-employed in that position. Not necessarily the same position, but another civil service position.”

Graham said he had no objection to returning chiefs and assistant chiefs to their previous positions, but he had a problem with other appointments because he believed it violated the civil service regulations.

Thomas said the other appointed offices involve people who come from the civil service ranks in the fire and police departments. She said she would get a copy of those positions to the commission.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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