When Michael Harrison was Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, the Mayor’s Innovation Department at City Hall worked with Chief Harrison to come up with a new plan designed to bring the Civil Service promotion system into “modern times.” Mayor Landrieu had already managed to ditch the banded lists the New Orleans Police Department had been using successfully for years. The banded lists were the result of a consent decree in a federal discrimination complaint. So, convinced that we no longer needed protections from discrimination, favoritism, and whatever ism’s you can come up with, Mayor Landrieu branded the Civil Service Department’s exam as “falsely objective” and replaced all of the Civil Service Commissioners until the Commission agreed with him. Thus we have the Great Place to Work Initiative.
In the past 24 hours, I have heard numerous people say that they did not understand how the NOPD is switching the list around when that was the purview of the Civil Service Department. This is not exactly true. The Civil Service Department is responsible for administering the test and preparing a list of eligible candidates. The Appointing Authority is responsible for selecting candidates for promotion. The Superintendent of Police is the Appointing Authority for the New Orleans Police Department. The Civil Service Rules, which have the force and effect of law, allow for selection of anyone who passed the exam. Of course, they have to be selected pursuant to La. Const. Art. 10, Sec. 7, which states that appointments have to be made “under a general system based upon merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service…”
When Michael Harrison was Superintendent, he just chose whoever he wanted from the list of eligibles, regardless of their position on the list. I filed “appeals” pursuant to Civil Service Rule VI, Sec. 6.1 on behalf of three candidates for Police Lieutenant who had been passed over for promotion and I was able to make the case that the people that had been promoted ahead of my three candidates had not be selected based upon merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service. Shortly thereafter, Chief Harrison left for Baltimore and Shaun Ferguson was selected to replace him. Chief Ferguson decided he was going to make promotions by going down the Civil Service list in order. Not to be undone, the Innovation Squad finally convinced the CAO to enact a policy that would guide promotions in the New Orleans Police Department. That policy can be found in CAO Policy Memo 143(R). The application of CAO Policy Memo 143(R) is how the Civil Service list has become a new, re-ordered list.
Is this legal?
Maybe. La. Const. Art. X, Sec. 7 states “The number (of candidates) to be certified shall not be less than three; however, if more than one vacancy is to be filled, the name of one additional eligible for each vacancy may be certified.” I believe this means that there has to be three candidates certified unless there is more than one position to be filled, in which case there will be more than three candidates certified — there will be one additional candidate certified per extra position to be filled. Apparently, I am in the minority in my belief. The Innovation Squad believes that where this line states the number of candidates to be certified “shall not be less than three” means three candidates can be certified or 103 candidates can be certified.
Certification of candidates is the Civil Service Department’s job as it relates to promotions. The Appointing Authority selects candidates from those that are certified by the Personnel Director (Civil Service Department).
So, if “the number to be certified shall not be less than three” means three or 103, then the Personnel Director can certify everyone who passed the test and then it is up to the Appointing Authority to make promotions in a constitutional manner (on the basis of merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service). The Innovation Squad decided that Appointing Authorities throughout the City would certainly be able to select candidates for promotion in a constitutional manner. They remained undeterred by the clear evidence that Chief Harrison’s administration did not even try to make constitutional promotions. Harrison’s administration just picked whoever they wanted for reasons absolutely nobody could explain (at least not under oath at the Civil Service evidentiary hearing).
CAO Policy Memorandum 143(R) was introduced because they definitely were not going to return to the banded lists that were put into place to deter discrimination, favoritism, nepotism, and the other ism’s. In addition to the Innovation Unit, the Business Council of New Orleans, led by Coleman D. Ridley, Jr., a native of Newport News, Virginia, also thought they knew best how to make promotions within the New Orleans Police Department. Why the Business Council is interested in how the NOPD makes promotions is beyond me. I really don’t understand why the CAO wants to micromanage promotions in the NOPD either. This is not a good look on either the CAO or the Business Council.
My new position on the list is unacceptable. What can I do?
When Walter Powers, Claude Schlesinger, and I met with Chief Ferguson, the Deputy Chiefs, the Chief of Staff, and the City Attorneys advising them on this topic, Chief Ferguson stated that he would entertain anyone who believes that their new ranking was the result of some type of mistake. So, that could be the first thing to do. You can contact the Superintendent’s Office and tell them that you think there has been a mistake and you would like to discuss it with whoever is handling those complaints.
Once promotions are made, you may be able to use Civil Service Rule VI, Sec. 6.1 to challenge being skipped for someone else. However, application of that rule may or may not lead to a better result. Use of Rule VI, Sec. 6.1 is not an option until after promotion have actually been made from the list and you have actually been passed over.
At the meeting mentioned above a couple of weeks ago, Chief Ferguson stated in no uncertain terms that he was committed to transparency. He said that the NOPD would provide me with whatever documentation I wanted pending an official request. Well, I submitted an official request for all of the Promotion Committee documentation a couple of days ago. I received a reply to that request from the Chief of Staff who indicated that he was in the process of assembling the requested documentation. Once I have all that documentation, it should be clearer what process was used to move some candidates 20-30 positions from their ranking on the Civil Service list to make a new order to the Sergeants List.
Once all the requested information is received, we will be in a better position to determine what, if anything, can be done about how the list was shaken up.
If you can, shoot me an email that says what your new place is on the Sergeants List. I will be keeping a close eye on everything that transpires with regard to the promotions to Police Sergeant.