An Open Letter to Mayor Villaraigosa and Members of the Los Angeles City Council

While I’m currently not a Los Angeles resident, I am a retired city employee and a concerned citizen/taxpayer. Frankly, I’m mad as hell about your continuing effort to control the city’s civil service system. The following paragraphs reflect several previous efforts to discuss my concerns with you.

I’m concerned that you regularly subordinate the public interest to your own. It bothers me that you operate under an “all for one, one for all” rule. Thus, if one elected official fails to do his duty, the rest of you accept his failure in silence — even if it wastes city revenues, or violates city regulations.

Thus, you didn’t move a muscle when the Council’s Personnel Committee violated Charter Section 242(b) by failing to oversee the city’s personnel function and by refusing to investigate credible charges of human resource mismanagement by appointing authorities throughout the city organization.

You pretend the EEOC guidelines on employee selection procedures have no bearing on the city’s selection practices. And you seem not to know that a former personnel department manager cited court cases to support his testimony that city rating practices would not survive legal challenge.

You ignore entire sections of the city charter. You seem not to know that the personnel department is vested by Section 540 with the duty to administer the civil service system. And you seem not to care that, in dereliction of her duty, Maggie Whelan accepts the routine violation of Civil Service Rule 1.26.

For the past 17 ½ years, you’ve attacked the Board of Civil Service Commissioners. In violation of Charter Section 541, you’ve usurped the Board’s powers. Moreover, you seem unconcerned that civil service rules are now not enforced, that departmental employment practices are now not monitored, and that rule violations are now simply ignored. Your contempt for the Board was recently demonstrated by the rejection of a proposed rule to validate the use of probation, the working test.

As a result of your attack on the Civil Service Commission, four board presidents have placed loyalty to the Mayor ahead of duty to the people. They’ve provided written statements indicating that, despite what Charter Section 541 says, they have no power or duty to enforce civil service regulations.

Since 1993, you politicians — Mayors with Council support — have focused on the goal of dismantling the city’s civil service system. You’ve effectively turned that system into a collection of independent organizations, each one run by a mayoral appointee and each appointee accountable only to the mayor. Apparently, your objective is to let each city department, bureau and office operate more like a Fortune 500 company than a civil service agency.

And while all these changes were being implemented, the people of Los Angeles were kept in the dark. Three mayors—Riordan, Hahn, and now Villaraigosa — trashed historic transparency requirements. In crippling Sections 540 and 541, they violated the requirement that Charter changes need a vote of the people. And by letting half the city departments use their own, trait-based working test, the mayors violated the requirement that proposed rule-changes, must be printed and published before — not after — they become effective.

It should not surprise anyone that the “New Paradigm” was implemented as a well-kept, in-house secret. The mayors and council members have known all along that any proposed civil service make-over would ultimately have to be “sold to the voters” as a charter amendment. They’ve also known the voters would reject any scheme that proposes to let the city’s No. 1 politician hand out city jobs.

It’s a good bet that Villaraigosa and the members of the City Council are even now debating when to put their naked power grab (they’ll probably give it a positive-sounding title, like, “A new, Improved Civil Service System”) on the ballot. They may also be asking consultants to help them decide how to “sell” their “new and improved” system.

Readers of this column will already have figured it out: the politicians will, in fact, be asking the voters to legalize an employment system which they — the politicians — have already installed, illegally.

Contact Samuel at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com

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