Like one of those standard joke setups, I have good news and bad news.
First the good news: Human Resources Division (HRD) has dropped banding, at least for now. The Civil Service Commission just issued an email with the announcement of a public hearing on February 25 to review proposed amendments to HRD rules. The rules no longer contain a provision for banding of examination scores.
In reviewing the proposed changes, I actually find some of them improvements. For example, they clarify how to deal with the period when old lists are expiring and being replaced by new ones. If HRD does not receive the certification (“the list”) back from the employer at least three weeks before a list expires, it will not, assuming these rules go through, issue a certification. This creation of a “bright line” separating the two lists removes some of the politicking that has invariably influenced this process.
Now for the bad news. On January 27, Governor Patrick filed legislation that would go a long way towards gutting civil service. The Commission now has, as it has had for decades (at least as long as I’ve been practicing, which goes back to at least the Hoover Administration), five Commissioners: a chairman and four others. Only three of them now receive full salaries, with Commissioner Dan Henderson’s being the lowest of those, at about $77,000.
The Governor has proposed to essentially eliminate Commissioner Henderson, by converting his position from one of a relatively modest salary to one with no salary. Since Henderson presumably does not have a trust fund to fall back on, this would necessitate his leaving this position. Ironically, this change would come following significant criticism from the management labor community (including Boston Police Commissioner Davis and the Mass. Municipal Association) protesting Commissioner Henderson’s repeated insistence on issuing decisions in accordance with the law and not as a rubber-stamp for public employers.
Also in the bill, Commissioner Jack Taylor, who is already reduced to a part-time schedule, would see his salary go from about $35,000 to zero. Coincidentally, Taylor was the only other commissioner, besides Henderson, to vote against allowing banding to go through about a year ago. The other three commissioners, including Chairman Bowman, saw no problem with it. We had to then go to Superior Court to find someone who would actually read the law and force HRD to live with its regulations requiring scores to be set out in “whole numbers.”
What is particularly nefarious about the legislation is that, by the way it was filed, it automatically goes into effect on March 27, unless one branch of the Legislature votes it down before then. A copy of the bill can be found here.
If you still believe that having an independent Civil Service Commission has any value, I cannot urge you strongly enough to contact your union, your legislators, and anyone else who will listen to try to stop this legislation from becoming law.
Had this been done by the Romney Administration it would not have been surprising, but coming from the first Democratic governor in over 15 years, it is shameful.