Would an Honest Mayor
Ask His Appointees to Violate Their Oath of Office?
Under Charter Section 200, civil service commissioners are officers of the city. And under Charter Section 215, they can’t begin discharging their duties until they take the following oath or affirmation:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California and the Charter of the City of Los Angeles, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of [my office] according to the best of my ability.”
By swearing (or affirming) to support the city charter, civil service commissioners promise to do what the following charter sections require of them:
• Sec. 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 [oversee] the civil service system in accordance with the civil service provisions of Article X of the Carter.”
• Sec. 1019 (a) Investigation: “The Board shall investigate the enforcement of the civil service provisions of this Article and the civil service rules…”
Both these charter sections became effective on July 1, 2000. Yet, based on over 30 exchanges with the Board of Civil Service Commissioners, I’m persuaded those charter sections are routinely violated.
In preparation for a June 12, 2008 presentation, I sent each commissioner a copy of the charter sections cited above and a copy of Civil Service Rule 1.26. I also sent each commissioner a list of questions I’d planned to ask the Board about those regulations.
• Civil Service Rule 1.26: “PROBATIONARY PERIOD means the working test period during which an employee is required to demonstrate his/her fitness by the actual performance of the duties and responsibilities of his/her position and during which he/she may be terminated without right of appeal to the Board of Civil Service Commissioners.”
My first question was, “Does Civil Service Rule 1.26 require appointing authorities to use the probationary period as a working test?” In response to that question, President Drew Ivie said, “That’s the rule.” My follow-up question was, “Is this rule enforced now?” The President’s answer to that question was, “The department feels it is being enforced…”
I wasn’t satisfied with that answer and, in a subsequent letter, I asked the general manager to answer the following questions:
- Does Civil Service Rule 1.26 require appointing authorities to use the probationary period as a job-specific, performance-based working test?
- Does Charter Section 509(b) require the chief administrative officer to comply with Civil Service Rule 1.26? If so, is this charter section enforced?
- Does Charter Section 510(c) require the chief administrative officer to comply with Civil Service Rule 1.26? If so, is this charter section enforced?
The general manager refused to put her answers in writing. Instead, she had my questions sent to the city attorney’s office and, to this day, insiders at City Hall refuse to answer those three questions.
For years, the best kept secret downtown was that the Civil Service Commission is not allowed to enforce the rules! The public was treated like a mushroom farm—covered with bandini and kept in the dark. But now the secret’s out. And Mr. Mayor, please note: the people want Civil Service to work for them!