The Public Safety Committee encouraged the parties to present their information concerning a range of allegations regarding racial discrimination within the fire service, inadequate training and enforcement of policy and procedures, as well as improper appointments from expired Civil Service lists.
As I previously stated in my earlier letter, allegations of this nature present an impression that affects the morale and welfare of those in our fire service and that of the public they serve.
After I wrote the January 20th letter, I have continued to hear a similar range of allegations, both past and present, surfacing in the Police Department and among the various Civil Service departments of the City. In addition, as I am sure you are aware, a number of recent, well-publicized cases of employee litigation resulting in plaintiff’s decisions against the City are also cause for concern. Specifically, recent court findings for violations of the rights of affected employees has resulted in significant costs to the City through both legal defense expenses as well as large compensatory and punitive damage awards.
I have extensive experience in the area of discrimination and employee rights. The complaints that I see surfacing are indicative of a range of problems which will continue to fester and grow if they are left unattended at the root causes. I congratulated the Public Safety Committee on their initiation of an investigation to determine the facts, as the first of many essential steps toward resolving these problems.
At this time, I would strongly urge the Board of Aldermen to take the next and most strategic step. I believe that it is essential to immediately undertake a complete review of the Civil Service Commission Rules and Regulations within our City.
The repeated scenarios of appointments from expired lists, claims of abuse of promotional lists by the “one-in-three” rule, legal judgements against the City by aggrieved employees, and escalating complaints of racism and favoritism have eroded the confidence of all stakeholders in the civil service process as it appears to exist today. The conventional wisdom among our civil servants as well as the public is fast becoming a belief that the rules are ineffective, without force, and permit favoritism, discrimination and mediocrity in government.
I implore the Board of Aldermen to take action immediately by conducting a complete and thorough investigation of the Civil Service Rules and Regulations, and develop a plan to restore respect and integrity in our hiring, promotion and selection processes through a complete overhaul.
This action is necessary to prevent further divides among our City employees. We must make an investment in our greatest resource, our employees, and at the same time speak to the highest standards of qualification, performance and professionalism within all public service occupations in our City.
Once again, I applaud the efforts you have thus far undertaken, and I wish you continuing success in this endeavor.