Statement to the L.A. City Board of Civil Service Commissioners

Good morning. My name is Samuel M. Sperling. I’m a retired city employee with a continuing interest in the management of public service employees. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with you this morning.

You’re aware that Civil Service Rule 1.26 defines the probationary period as the working test period. You know it calls for the use of probationary ratings that reflect what appointees actually do on the job.

And you surely must know that Section 541 of the City Charter vests in you with the power and duty to enforce Rule 1.26, to ensure that, like other employment tests used in City Service, the probationary period is used as a valid (clearly job-related) working test.

Now, I call your attention to the report, “Performance Appraisal Process,” which Manager Whalen submitted to the Board on July 18, 2007. While this report provides information on both the use of probationary ratings and annual evaluations, my focus this morning is on probationary ratings.

According to this report, the Personnel Department’s survey involved 43 city departments, 19 of which reported using the city’s 50-year old rating form, PDAS-28, to assess the work of their probationers.

In those 19 departments, probationary Clerks and Carpenters, Managers and Mechanics, Welders and Water Biologists—all were rated on the PDAS-28 trait list.

But 17 of those 43 departments reported using their own customized rating forms. In one department, supervisors were expected to rate probationers on tact, memory, attitudes, judgment, etc. But since those rating factors were not defined, each supervisor was forced to provide his/her own definitions.

Another department using a customized rating form asked supervisors to document probationers’ common sense, temperament, loyalty, disposition, etc. But since the department provided no standards with which the probationer’s traits could be compared, supervisors set their own standards.

Finally, according to the General Manager’s July 18, 2007 report, none of the 43 departments surveyed reported using a probationary rating procedure that complied with Rule 1.26. Nor did the General Manager’s May 5, 2009 report, “Implementation of New Performance Appraisal Forms,” address that problem.

Neither of the new PDAS forms accurately reflects what employees do on the job. Both violate Civil Service Rule 1,26. Long haul, both dumb-down the civil service system and waste scarce revenues!

As a concerned citizen, I cannot allow the current corruption of civil service to continue. Accordingly, I ask this Board, in keeping with Article X, Section 1004 of the current City Charter, to give public notice of its intention to promulgate a Civil Service Rule governing the city-wide use of probation.

If you fail or refuse to do your duty, I will put my life in your hands: I will announce a personal hunger strike, take up a position near City Hall and begin wasting away. Then we’ll see if the public supports a derelict board, or the concerned citizen trying to get the board to do what it should already be doing.

Contact Sam Sperling at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.