Legislative Committee Hears Strong Police Union Opposition To Governor’s Attack On Civil Service
On Wednesday morning February 24, 2010 the Joint Legislative Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing to address the Governor’s improper efforts to stack the Civil Service Commission by eliminating the salary of 3 of the 5 Civil Service Commissioners. The Governor’s plan would completely politicize the Commission by puttng virtually all the power in the chair who is answerable directly to the Governor.
At the hearing there was a tremendous outpouring of opposition to the Governor’s proposal. The hearing room was overflowing with representatives from numerous police organizations clearly leading the opposition to the Governor’s efforts. Tom Nee, President of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association testified as did Sandull Grace Attorney Susan Horwitz. See her comments below. Also the Massachusetts Coalition of Police was represented by Vice President Kenneth Scanzio and Attorney Tim King.
The Committee members appeared very concerned with the Governor’s proposal and listened to the objections from the police union witnesses. The Committee members heard that the Civil Service Commission needs some fixing but that the Governor’s proposal is not the appropriate action and in fact will only make things worse. It is wrong to politicize an agency whose primary mission and purpose is to keep politics out of public emloyment. The Civil Service Commission is sometimes the only place where employees can turn to insure fair treatment in their employment. The Committee must act within ten days of the hearing and report whether it approves or disapproves such plan and then at least one branch at the general court must vote it’s disapproval by a majority vote in order to prevent the Governor’s plan from taking effect as of March 27,2010.
Please continue to let the Committee know your opposition to this anti union and anti employee plan.
JOINT COMMITTEE ON STATE ADMINISTRATION AND REGULATORY OVERSIGHT
Boston, MA 02133
House Staff Telephone: (617) 722-2140
Boston, MA 02133
Senate Staff Telephone: (617) 722-1643
Susan’s statement to the Joint Legislative Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight:
My name is Susan Horwitz and I am an attorney representing the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. I also have been representing individuals before the Civil Service Commission for over 25 years and I previously worked for the Federal government as a personnel officer implementing federal civil service law.
I am here today to ask you to disapprove the Governor’s actions to improperly restructure the Civil Service Commission.
The role of the Civil Service Commission as described in the Statute, Chapter 31, is to enforce the basic Merit Principles as described in the law. The agency is responsible for assuring fair treatment of all applicants and employees in all aspects of personnel administration without regard to political affilation and to assure that all employees are protected against coercion for political purposes and are protected from arbitrary and capricious actions.
The State Courts have further emphasized that the fundamental purpose of the civil service system is to guard against political considerations, favoritism, and bias in government employment decisions and to protect public employees from political control.
I believe that if you take a close look at the Governor’s proposal you will see the irony in his proposal since it does not pass the standard of keeping politics and fairness in the structure of the Civil Service Commission itself. Were the Commission reviewing the personnel actions proposed by the Governor’s proposal it would surely find it in violation of merit principles and in contravention of the essence and purpose of the civil service law and system.
The Commission is designed with 5 commissioners and creates balance by ensuring that at least one member is a representative of labor, 2 representing management and also that no more than 3 commissioners can be from the same political party. Clearly this is designed to create balance and fairness and to assure that the Commission will carry out its role as a fair and neutral agency. It is clear that the Commission must not be influenced by politics and surely should not be restructured for political expedience. The proposed restructure will effectively eliminate the labor member of the Commission and will create a one person commission which will be directly responsive to the Governor since the Governor will determine which Commissioners are paid a salary. What had been an agency which has been and must be independent of executive control would now be entirely under executive control. It is essential that the Civil Service Commission be an independent watchdog to assure fairness in public employment. This proposed new structure effectively eliminates the guarantees of balance between labor and management and between political parties.
The purpose of terms of office is to insulate officials from being removed because those that appear before the agency may dislike decisions made by the agency. This new structure would effectively terminate current commissioners just to satisfy the complaints of those who are not willing to work within a fair and unbiased system.
The Governor’s proposal undermines the principles of the civil service system and politicizes an agency whose purpose is to keep politics out of public employment. The civil service commission is the only place where individual citizens can go to ensure fair treatment in their efforts to obtain public employment and to ensure their fair treatment as public employees.
The effort to rush in these changes is further evidence that there are political motivations to this proposaL. It is wrong to try to make these radical changes without proper review and analysis by the legislature. This proposal does not create efficiency in government it merely politicizes an agency which must be independent in order to carry out its mission.
We therefore ask you to disapprove of this dismantling and politicizing of the Civil Service Commission.
Susan F. Horwitz, Esq
Sandull Grace, PC
44 School St Suite 1100
Boston, MA 02109