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December 13, 2010

Re:       Civil Service Reforms Advances to Governor’s Desk despite League’s Concerns

Dear Mayor:

Today, both the Assembly and Senate passed A-3590/S-2394, which permits collective bargaining on matters covered by civil service; requires civil service examinations to be offered on continual basis; creates title reduction task force; and requires posting of lay off plans. (See our December 10th letter)

Municipal Administrators testifying

(l to r) Anthony Mercantante, Administrator Township of Middletown, Tim Gordon, Administrator Township of Millburn

We oppose A-3590/S-2394 as currently written.  In recent weeks, the Legislature has discussed the merits of Civil Service.  While we agree that there is need to reform the current system, we truly believe that the ability for a municipality to opt-out of Civil Service is one of the most critical reforms to the system.  We have documented in testimony before various legislative committees on how the current civil service system impedes our ability to manage personnel in these fiscally challenging times.  Additionally, it is an impediment to sharing of services and consolidation and we have demonstrated repeatedly that the current system drives up personnel costs and property taxes for the 194 Civil Service municipalities.  

There has been no evidence or documentation presented from the opponents of opt-out that the non-civil service municipalities are vulnerable to patronage, nepotism and abuse.  In fact, those two-thirds of our municipalities who are not Civil Service manage efficiently by following personnel policies consistent with both federal and state labor laws and regulations, which safeguard against the abuses that were prevalent when Civil Service was created. 

We agree with the December 12, 2010 State Ledger editorial, “First fix civil service, then let taxpayers vote on whether to opt-out” which supports opt-out by a public referendum.  This makes sense.  The citizens and taxpayers should have the ability to decide locally as to whether or not civil service makes sense for their community. 

There are some specific provisions of A-3590/S-2394 that we have serious concerns with as currently written.  While we support the increase of seasonal appointments to nine months, we are extremely concerned that the bill specifies 26 titles that can be extended for nine months.  Approximately ten of the titles do not exist in Civil Service and most of them are county positions.  We have suggested that the specific titles be removed from the bill and that all seasonal appointments be expanded to nine months. 

In addition we support the expanding the working test period to six months; however, we are again extremely concerned that A-3590/S-2394 removes employees in the working test period from “at will” employees to “protected employees” subject to disciplinary review, lay-off plans and terms and conditions of employment. 

While we agree with transparency and open government we are concerned with the requirement that would mandate that the submitted lay-off plan be published on the municipal website.  Besides the issue of state-mandate state pay, we are concerned that while a document may be or become a public record, that personnel actions are posted on the website.  In addition, we are extremely concerned about posting the proposed lay-off plan at it is a working document that continues to change over the course of the review by the Civil Service Commission.  The lay-off process is difficult not only on management but the employees as well.  By posting the proposed lay-off plan, employees already in a difficult situation may find it embarrassing by publicizing the situation, which is not final, especially in municipalities where employees tend to work and reside.

We appreciate the ability to negotiate disciplinary review, ways to avoid or reduce lay-offs and terms and conditions of employment.  However, we are concerned that it be a two-way street.  For example, the ability to negotiate furloughs, where do the negotiations end?  At a certain time period the clock ends and the municipality will be forced to implement lay-offs.  The longer it takes to come to a decision the less effective the lay-offs or furloughs are in terms of cost savings.  This can result in more lay-offs or longer furlough periods.

Furthermore, this proposed change highlights the point the municipalities should either implement personnel policies through Civil Service rules or though negotiated contracts.  Many municipalities would rather be out from under civil service jurisdiction and be free to negotiate these types of issues with their employees.  The ability to negotiate should provide an either/or option, while preserving due process, for both the municipality and union, not another layer of bureaucracy.

Finally, A-3590/S-2394 creates a Civil Service Modernization Task Force to make recommendations to the Civil Service Commission on how to achieve the goal of a 33 percent reduction in the number of titles in State and local government services.  We oppose the formation of the task force, as the statute currently permits the Civil Service Commission to reduce titles.  In fact, the process is underway and seems to be working effectively.  There is no need to create another bureaucratic level in the process. 

We have submitted our concerns to both the Legislature and Governor and we are hopeful that the Governor will issue a conditional veto that will address our concerns.

If you have questions on A-3590/S-2394 or need additional information please contact Lori Buckelew at 609-695-3481 x112 or lbuckelew@njslom.com.

Very truly yours,

 

Honorable Chuck Chiarello                               Honorable Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.
League President                                            Chair of Management Reform Task Force
Mayor, Buena Vista                                          Mayor, Orange

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

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