Holes in the City Charter Rip Holes in Our Leaders’ Credibility

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Ten years ago, the people of Los Angeles voted for a new City Charter. That Charter, which became effective on July 1, 2000, provided for an active Board of Civil Service Commissioners. It vested that Board with “…the power and duty to make and enforce the Civil Service rules and the power and duty to establish and maintain the Civil Service system.” It also directed the board to investigate the enforcement of its rules and of the Civil Service provisions of the Charter.
But those Charter provisions have not been enforced. A succession of 3 Mayors has degraded the board, downsized it role and claimed its powers for themselves. And they did all that in secret—with no public notice, without a vote of the people!
With no legal authority, those three Mayors (Riordan, Hahn and Villaraigosa) stifled the Board of Civil Service Commissioners. In effect, they turned it into a toothless tiger. And from all that has been learned, not a single elected official—not the City Attorney, not the City Controller and none of the 15 Council Members—has ever protested the Mayors’ arrogant power grab!
Now, nearly 10 years later, no one remembers Charter Sections 541 and 1019(a). Everyone seems to accept the City’s “new Civil Service.” Indeed, as recently as July 24, 2008, the President of the Board of Civil Service Commissioners declared: “…This is really not an administrative body. This is a quasi judicial body who hears appeals of City employees…”
But what about Charter Sections 541 and 1019(a)? Well, they’re still in the Charter; they haven’t been amended or deleted. They’re just ignored. Officials who bother to read the Charter just pretend to see blank spots instead of the Civil Service provisions that were approved by the voters.
In fact, to maintain the fiction that Sections 541 and 1019(a) don’t exist, the City Council has ripped a third hole in the Charter. So far as the council is concerned, Section 242(b) doesn’t exist either. That Section declares “…the duty of the Council and its committees is to become fully informed of the City’s business so as to oversee all the functions of the City government…”
To discharge its duty, the council and its Personnel Committee would have to become fully informed of the way human resources and tax dollars are wasted in City Service. It would then need to “legislate appropriately.” But since that would involve the council in a conflict with an arrogant, law-breaking Mayor, a spineless City Council pretends it has no duty to oversee the Personnel function.
For nine and a half years now, City leaders have pretended that Charter Sections 541, 1019(a), and 242(b) don’t exist. They’ve purposely kept the public in the dark about the massive mismanagement of human resources and the accompanying waste of tax dollars. But the people of Los Angeles are finally being informed about the holes in the Charter—about their “leaders” dereliction. Sadly, the more Angelenos learn about their representatives at City Hall, the less likely they are to trust them!
In America, the people elect their leaders. And, typically, they trust them. But the residents of San Jacinto recently learned that the officials they’d elected had “misused their power to advance their own political ambition…” Obviously, San Jacinto residents can no longer trust their leaders. Politicians in L.A., take note: rip holes in the Charter and jeopardize your credibility.

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