Board of Handcuffed Commissioners

In Los Angeles, the City’s Civil Service Commission consists of five members: Anthony De Los Reyes, President; Nancy McClelland, Vice-President; Sam Yebri, Member; Gabriel J. Esparza, Member; and Paul W. Sweeney, Jr. Member.

These five Commissioners are Officers of the City. Before they could serve on the Civil Service Board, they were required to take the Oath of Office. They all vowed to support the Charter, and each one promised … “I will faithfully discharge the duties of the Civil Service Commission according to the best of my ability.”

The duties referred to in the Oath are from Charter Section 541: “The Board of Civil Service Commissioners shall have the power and duty to make and enforce the civil service rules and to establish and maintain the civil service system….”

These duties were approved by the voters of Los Angeles. They’re the duties the people expect the Board to discharge. And they’re the duties each Commissioner promised to discharge to the best of his/her ability.

But the ugly truth is, since the new Charter became effective on July 1, 2000, those duties have been consistently ignored. And during that 13-year period, all Civil Service Commissioners vowed they would discharge those duties, but all those Commissioners were stifled. That crippling condition was inflicted on the people of Los Angeles by the three Mayors who’ve served under the new Charter.

Without letting the people know what they were doing, the Mayors degraded the Board and grabbed its powers. That made it impossible for the Board to be a firewall between the City’s politicians and the City’s employment system.

Using their ill-gotten powers, those Mayors would not let the Board do what the Charter requires it to do. Thus, the Board has not been allowed to make or enforce the civil service rules, or to investigate rule violations. Nor has it been allowed to oversee the City’s civil service system.

For current members of the Board, it must be terribly frustrating to know they can do nothing to end the mindless violation of civil service rules; they must find it depressing that they can do nothing about the use of phony working tests — that they cannot end the use of invalid, one-size-fits-all, trait-based employee ratings.

The mess Downtown is what it is because that’s what Mayor Villaraigosa wants it to be. He could fix City Service in the four months he has left in office. He’s been asked to do that, but does not appear to be interested.

Sooner or later, though, the Board of Civil Service Commissioners must be allowed to do what the Charter requires it to do. Chances are, it will be up to the new Mayor, whoever that turns out to be, to take the cuffs off the Board!

Send your questions and comments to samuelmsperling@yahoo.com