Fire chief defends Civil Service
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
By MIKE PLAISANCE
SPRINGFIELD - Fire and police chiefs must be free to make decisions without having to worry about jeopardizing their careers by upsetting the mayor, and Civil Service helps ensure it.
So said Fire Chief Gary G. Cassanelli yesterday.
He said he understands the argument to abandon Civil Service made Monday by Mayor Charles V. Ryan.
Ryan said he wants to eliminate Civil Service in naming chiefs because the mayor should have the power to fill such important positions without being restricted to candidates ranked by test scores and who cannot be removed except for strong cause.
But Civil Service is a way to prevent any mayor from exercising political influence over the chiefs, said Cassanelli, the chief since 1990 and a city firefighter since 1976.
"I think public safety is too sacred and too important to allow any kind of political leverage against any person who's trying to administer a public safety department," he said.
Still, the reality often fails to match the objective, as critics have faulted Civil Service for essentially installing chiefs and others for life with little accountability.
Ryan proposed having the mayor, who must seek election every two years, appoint chiefs to four-year contracts in order to allow for mayoral overlap and periodic review.
Police Chief Paula C. Meara, a 30-year veteran and chief since 1996, met with Ryan Monday and said she could understand his desire to appoint chiefs.
Civil service - whereby appointments are determined by competitive examination - dates to the Han Dynasty in China around 2,000 years ago. President Chester Arthur established the U.S. Civil Service Commission in 1883.
Massachusetts became the second state to adopt Civil Service in 1884, a year after New York.
History is all about change, as Timothy J. Ryan can attest. The mayor's son, is chairman of the Police Commission. He said yesterday that he supports removing the police chief's position from Civil Service.
But that was an about-face for Timothy Ryan. He told the Sunday Republican in 1998, when he was a city councilor, that he would not favor taking the chief's post out of Civil Service.
"All you have is a puppet of the mayor," Ryan said at that time.
Yesterday, Timothy Ryan said he agreed on the need to change the police chief from Civil Service, though he said he was not bashing Meara.
"I guess as I see it up close and personal, it's very clear that the chief's job is a significant undertaking, and you could even make an argument for there to be a term limit in order for the job to be done the way it should be done," he said. "Having someone in there for 10-15 years, they begin to lose steam and focus."
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Thread: Civil Service questioned.
07-29-2004, 01:22 AM #1
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Civil Service questioned.
07-29-2004, 09:43 AM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
Two things to think about. Is the current system broke?? By that, I mean are people really being appointed to a Chief's post, and "Living there" forever, or is there reasonable turnover?? And Two, Would allowing the Mayor to appoint Chiefs of Departments open a whole new bag of bricks??
Our system, used widely in the Mid-Atlanic area, is that everyone up to Deputy Chief is in a Civil Service position (or, as it is called quite often, a "Merit System" job). These positions are filled by competitive process, rather than political gamesmanship. The Top jobs are appointed by the senior Elected official of the Jurisdiction, (Mayor, or most likely, County Executive) and quite often, are subject to review and/or confirmation by the City/County Council. Personal Opinion, I prefer the "Appointed by the Elected Official" route for Chiefs for a couple of reasons. 1. If the Elected Official appoints all other Department heads, (Utilities, Roads, Finance, Etc.) then why have a different system for public safety? Any Executive wants to have his team on the field, without having a free agent forced on him by a different system. 2. America's Fire/Rescue Services, indeed, all of Public Safety, benefits from a free exchange of ideas which is fostered by the free movement of Executives from one place to another. While bringing in a Chief from "Outside" is a cause of screaming from some quarters, this is sometimes the only way to effect meaningful change in an organization that needs it.Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
In memory of
Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006
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I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.
07-29-2004, 10:26 AM #3
Not that I know much about the civil service system, but I must ask this:
1) St. Louis FD is facing allegations of unfair testing
2) Bridgeport FD is facing problems with accepting felons onto the department
3) Departments are pushing for minorities and women to apply, yet when they don't get enough of them, the tests might be pushed back.
There have been several articles and lawsuits written about several city's hiring practices being unfair. Aren't these departments civil service? if it's such a blind system, how is it discriminatory?
as for appointing vs. electing vs. civil serving to become chief? well, we all know elections aren't good, because they are just a popularity contest. being appointed isn't good, because all it means is that to get the job, you just need to be well liked by those who are doing the appointing. as for civil serive, well, it discriminates against minorities, at least according to all these law suits and means a person is appointed for life, and has little accountability for his or her actoins.
I saw we come up with a new plan. take all the candidates out back and shoot out their left knee. the first one to get to the hospital under his or her own power (ie, walks there) gets the job. the reason for this is because he/she is obviously the strongest person, wanted it more, and was willing to do what was neccessary to get the job done. and yes, I'm just kidding, I just think no matter what decision you make, you will always find someone who is unhappy about the situation.If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!
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