A recent news item reported that, if Wendy Greuel is elected Mayor of Los Angeles, she’ll hire Dick Riordan as her senior budget advisor. That decision was made, no doubt, to get Greuel a few votes. But if Angelenos remember the mess Riordan made when he was Boss at City Hall, they may not want him back!
While he was still campaigning to become Mayor, Riordan was already plotting to subject the City’s civil service system to a radical make-over. His plan was to eliminate the Board of Civil Service Commissioners, and to turn the system into a collection of separate departments, accountable only to him.
As Mayor, Riordan moved quickly to implement his plan. He convinced the Civil Service Commissioners he’d appointed to follow him, ignore the Charter. He persuaded them they had no power to enforce the civil service rules — duty to oversee the civil service system. He turned the Commission into an appeals body.
For seven years, Riordan worked — behind closed doors — to put his New Paradigm in place. He empowered Department Managers and told them they would not be expected to follow “every inefficient procedural safeguard.” Moreover, he let them know they would no longer be subject to Commission oversight.
The new City Charter became effective on July 1, 2000. But as Boss of the City, Riordan rejected the civil service provisions in that Charter. He decided, for four million Angelenos, that the whole City would pretend those provisions don’t exist.
At this point, Riordan had only one year until he’d be termed out as Mayor. To ensure that his alternative to civil service would live on after he’d gone, he needed a couple of Charter-bashing buddies. He found one in Chairman Zine, of the Council’s Personnel Committee. He found a second partner in Maggie Whelan, and appointed her General Manager of the Personnel Department.
After spending Fiscal Year 2000-01 under the new City Charter, the Boss of Los Angeles, Richard J. Riordan left City Service. He may well have left in the hope that the people would never find out he screwed them out of a vote.
But Angelenos know about Riordan’s treachery. They know he handcuffed the Board; and they know the Board was designed to be a firewall — to limit politicians’ access to civil service jobs. Moreover, Angelenos are painfully aware that, under Riordan’s plan (a power-grab which was embraced by his successors) civil service is dead — killed by an overdose of politics!
If Wendy Greuel is elected Mayor, she’ll have to deal with the mess Riordan’s New Paradigm inflicted on Los Angeles. But instead of assuring the voters that she will follow the Charter, she’s bringing Mr. Riordan back to City Hall. Go figure!
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