The Sewerage & Water Board, the New Orleans Civil Service Commission, and the Media Attention

The following is the entirety of my post regarding the NOLA.COM story entitled Sewerage & Water Board, not Civil Service, to blame for hiring delays.

The Civil Service Commission Chairman is right that the Sewerage & Water Board asked that the ability to hire people be delegated to the Sewerage & Water Board. At that time, I stood up and argued against that delegation on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police. It was not that the request to delegate that authority directly impacted the police department, but that it adversely impacted the civil service system in general.

The Civil Service Commission Chairman correctly states that the Sewerage & Water Board has failed in hiring new people, not the Civil Service Department. What she fails to state is that in spite of these failures, the Civil Service Commission has not revoked that delegation of authority and continues to facilitate weakening Civil Service.

As the article points out, the Landrieu administration has attempted to “reform” the Civil Service Commission since 2010. The “reforms” they have instituted are antithetical to the purpose and goals of the Civil Service system. The Civil Service Commission has been complicit in these “reforms” since Mayor Landrieu began replacing Commissioners on the Civil Service Commission with people who are inclined to give the Mayor what he wanted in spite of the basic tenets of any merit-based system of employment.

As I stated above, I argued against delegating hiring authority to the Sewerage & Water Board. What they have done is reduce funding and staffing for the Civil Service Department and then complain about how the Civil Service Department is unable to meet the needs of various departments and then used this to justify decimating the Civil Service system in New Orleans. The other “reforms” the Landrieu administration and the Civil Service Commission have implemented are as much of a failure as the Sewerage & Water Board hiring delegation. Unfortunately, those failures do not result in street flooding or maybe they would have gotten some media attention. So, while we are on the subject of Civil Service, let’s talk about some other stuff.

The Mayor’s Great Place to Work Initiative, which was the greatest part of the “reforms” implemented by Landrieu, changed the way promotions were made. In effect, employees seeking a promotion take a test and all persons who pass the test are eligible to be promoted. Unfortunately, Louisiana Constitution Article X, Section 7 reads as follows:

“Permanent appointments and promotions in the classified state and city service shall be made only after certification by the appropriate department of civil service under a general system based upon merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service, as ascertained by examination which, so far as practical, shall be competitive. The number 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. Each commission shall adopt rules for the method of certifying persons eligible for appointment, promotion, reemployment, and reinstatement and shall provide for appointments defined as emergency and temporary appointments if certification is not required.

Promotions under the Great Place to Work are not competitive and the test is not used to determine merit, efficiency, fitness, or length of service, as the Constitution requires. In addition to these recently acquired deficiencies, the Civil Service Rules on promotions prior to the Great Place to Work Initiative were the product of a consent decree in the matter of Larry Williams v. City of New Orleans, 725 F2d 1554 (5th Cir. 1984). The consent decree in the Williams case set out to eliminate discrimination in the promotional process.

The Williams consent decree developed the use of banding test scores to allow the NOPD greater flexibility in choosing promotional candidates to ensure racial equity while maintaining the Louisiana Constitution’s requirements of assessing merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service through competitive testing. In addition the usage of banding allowed the Civil Service to reduce the error inherent in testing, making test results more accurate. The Williams consent decree, and the resultant banding system, was the result of a number of expert psychometricians and experts from other relevant fields under the oversight of a federal judge. The Great Place to Work Initiative undid the changes implemented by the those experts via the Williams consent decree. The Great Place to Work Initiative re-opened the door to discrimination, favoritism, nepotism, and other ism’s. The Great Place to Work Initiative was not compiled by experts in the field, but it negated changes that were made by experts.

The Great Place to Work Initiative has also led to morale problems. Employees are now uncertain about what it takes to get promoted. Given that uncertainty, it is nearly impossible to resist the conclusion that promotions are being made on the basis of who you know instead of what you know or your ability to perform the job. None of this inspires confidence in the system or the department’s leadership.

In addition to the changes made to the promotional system, the Civil Service Commission has recently added 16 unclassified positions to the New Orleans Police Department. These 16 unclassified positions were previously held by classified employees. The Civil Service Commission approved this request in spite of objections by the Civil Service Department and arguments presented by myself and others. Simply put, the addition of these unclassified positions was contrary to the Civil Service Rules and the underlying notion of the merit-based system of employment. Unclassified positions are the exception to the rule and the addition of these unclassified system effectively denies classified employees a promotional opportunity because they have effectively replaced the classified position of Police Captain.

This just skims the surface of what is wrong with the Civil Service Commission now and the problems caused by the Great Place to Work Initiative. The New Orleans Fire Department has experienced many of the same problems as the NOPD. I am sure there are issues I am unaware of. Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin, CAO at the time, once told me that the Civil Service Department was too overly concerned with fairness. Maybe in private enterprise an employer can place other things ahead of fairness. However, in public service, fairness is the cornerstone of a healthy Civil Service system.

The Civil Service Commission was right to point the finger at the Sewerage & Water Board regarding these hiring problems. But, the Civil Service Commission needs to look a little closer to home regarding the Great Place to Work Initiative. Maybe they can avert the inevitable disaster that will result from this wanton destruction of the Civil Service Rules.

The Great Place to Work Initiative needs to be repealed. There is nothing wrong with implementing changes to improve the efficiency of the Civil Service Department. However, wholesale changes to a system which was the biggest reform to public service this country has ever seen is a tremendous mistake — a mistake which has already been made.

Donovan Livaccari, Spokesman
Fraternal Order of Police
Crescent City Lodge #2

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#NOPD: Over the Precipice

NOPD: Over the Precipice

It will take over 40 years to return to full strength

The New Orleans Police Department has gone over the precipice. We may be beyond the point of return. And the blame rests clearly at the feet of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. They were both forewarned.

In February 2011, the Fraternal Order of Police issued the first hue and cry about the NOPD manpower crisis. For three years, in every news story and interview possible, we have repeated the mantra….”Manpower….Manpower…Manpower”. We have advocated the repeal of the domicile ordinance and we have opposed the tattoo policy. We have asked that the focus be turned to retention and the recruitment of fully trained, post certified lateral police officers.

In February 2011 there were 1415 commissioned New Orleans police officers.

Today, there are 1135 sworn officers – counting from Superintendent down to Field Recruit. Over 100 of those are unable to perform their duties due to serious injury, long-term illness or administrative reassignment.

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@FOPNO Enforses @StacyHeadNOLA for #NOLA City Council #FOP #FOPNO

Fraternal Order of PoliceCrescent City Lodge (LA 002)January 19, 2014

FOP ENDORSES STACY HEAD FOR CITY COUNCIL AT-LARGE SEAT

At its January 2014 General Membership Meeting, the Fraternal Order of Police, Crescent City Lodge, following the procedures set out in its Constitution and By-laws, voted to endorse candidate Stacy Head for one of the New Orleans City Council’s two At-Large seats.

Stacy Head has proven to be a great friend to law enforcement during her tenure as Councilperson from District B, and over the past four years as Councilperson At-Large.  Her office door is always opened to the F.O.P. and she has been a great help to our members on a host of issues.

In this morning’s addition of The New Orleans Advocate it was reported that Ms. Head’s lone opponent publicly stated his support for the New Orleans domicile ordinance, while Stacy Head called the debate a silly distraction and favored removing the ordinance.

To Read the Full Text of the Advocate Article – Click Here

Although election day is not until February 1, 2014, early voting has already started.  Members can cast their votes, at their convenience, at the Algiers Courthouse, the Voting Machine Warehouse, New Orleans City Hall, and the Regional Transportation Management Center.

The Fraternal Order of Police strongly urges all of our members who are registered to vote in Orleans Parish to take advantage of early voting and vote for Stacy Head as soon as possible.

We remind our active NOPD members of Civil Service restrictions, but ask all of our members to do what they legally can to support the election of Stacy Head as Councilperson At-Large.

To our active NOPD members – There are so many issues before the City Council that directly effect our livelihoods as police officers.  Please remind your family and your friends of the importance of having a supporter like Stacy Head on the City Council.

To our retired members – Please contact the Stacy Head campaign office and ask for a yard sign; volunteer to assist with the campaign; make a donation.

And most importantly  GET OUT AND VOTE!!!!!

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#LAFOP Endorses @CynthiaHMorrell for #NOLA City Council. @lafop @fopno #FOP #FOPNO

FOP ENDORSES CYNTHIA HEDGE-MORRELL

FOR NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL 

At its winter meeting on Saturday, January 18, 2014, the Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police Board of Directors voted to endorse Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell for Councilmember-At-Large Division 2 in the 2014 election for New Orleans City Council.

With two sons serving on the New Orleans Police Department, Councilmember Hedge-Morrell is keenly aware of the issues facing law enforcement in New Orleans.

Councilmember Hedge-Morrell has proven throughout her years of service that she is willing to take bold steps to improve both the safety of New Orleanians and those who visit New Orleans and the lives of New Orleans Police Officers. We expect that her dedication to New Orleans, the region, and the State of Louisiana will continue once re-elected.

The Fraternal Order of Police encourages everyone to vote for Cynthia-Hedge-
Morrell, Councilmember-At-Large, Division 2, Saturday, February 1, 2014.

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OPSE Developments 8/8/13 #FOP #FOPNO #NOPD

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On Thursday, August 8, 2013, the New Orleans City Council considered the proposed OPSE ordinance, yet again.  The ordinance considered today was an amended version of the ordinance.

On Wednesday, August 7, 2013 the DOJ send a letter to the City Attorney’s office complaining that some of the amendments to the proposed ordinance would be contrary to the provisions of the Consent Decree.  The DOJ Letter can be found by clicking here.

As a result of the DOJ letter, the City Attorney’s office advised the City Council that if they didn’t pass this ordinance and adjust it to comply with the Consent Decree that either the City would be held in contempt of the Consent Decree or that Judge Morgan would not allow any paid details at all.

Ray Burkart lobbies for amendments to OPSE ordinance.

Ray Burkart lobbies for amendments to OPSE ordinance.

The City Council met in Executive Session for about two hours while they discussed how they were going to handle the ordinance in relation to the DOJ letter.  Once they came out of Executive Session, Stacy Head offered the following amendments:  Section b(6) was to be deleted in its entirety and the words “or rotation requirement” were to be deleted in Section b(9).  These two amendments passed 6-0.  Cynthia Hedge-Morrell did not vote.

Susan Guidry then offered an additional amendment that deleted section b(8) in its entirety.  Ms. Guidry’s amendment passed with a vote of 5-1 (Head voted AGAINST).

The entire, amended ordinance was then offered and voted on by the entire City Council and it passed with a vote of 5-2 (Head and Hedge-Morrell voted AGAINST).

The final version of the ordinance looked something like this.

Myself and Raymond Burkart, III were present the entire day and worked tirelessly to try to get the best possible outcome for FOP members.  Raymond gave an impassioned plea to the City Council, but by then they had already decided what action they were going to take.  The video can be found here.

Raymond Burkart, III argues on behalf of the FOP.

Raymond Burkart, III argues on behalf of the FOP.

The entire City Council insisted that it was their intention to further examine the issues raised in the letter from DOJ and revisit the ordinance accordingly.  It should be noted that Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, who was responsible for most of the amendments to the ordinance, did not vote out of protest and because of an ethics complaint leaked to the media.  It should also be noted that Stacy Head was steadfast in her opposition to today’s second amendment and the ordinance as a whole.  It is worth watching the entire video.

What does all this mean?

The ordinance that passed set the pay scale for paid details that are time-based (as opposed to flat-fee details.  For example, a four hour stand-up at Wal Mart is a time-based detail.  A motorcycle escort is not a time-based detail.

The ordinance defined “Major Special Events” to include events held at the Convention Center, Fair Grounds, Mahalia Jackson, New Orleans Arena, Saenger, Superdome, and Lakefront Arena with an expected attendance of at least 2,000 people.  Major Special Events are exempted from the rotation requirement.

Holiday/High Demand premiums of $17/hr (which will all go to the officer working the detail) will be charged on New Year’s Day, MLK Day, Mardi Gras, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Lundi Gras, Friday after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve.

The rates were set.  They can be found on this document.  The $17/hr premium will be added to the amounts on this chart.  The OPSE fee will not change.

The fee charged by OPSE to administer details will be 15% or $5.00/hr whichever is less.  The fee is capped at $5.00/hr.  This fee can be waived by ordinance of the City Council.  Exceptions to the pay scale can be made by ordinance of the City Council.

Any fees collected by the OPSE which are not spent on the administration of the OPSE will be returned to the officers who worked details in an amount proportional to the amount of detail hours worked.

There can be special rates of pay for details requiring special certifications.  For example, K-9 handlers, bomb techs, and divers may command a detail rate commensurate with their level of training.

Officers can agree to work a detail for an amount lower than the pay scale for pre-existing details.  For example, if you currently work a detail for Mom and Pop Restaurant for $20/hr., you can continue to do that if you wish.

The amendments that were deleted today are lined out on this document.  In effect, the amendments were to remove options for the City Council to waive the rotation requirement and protections for the special taxing districts.  This does not necessarily mean that Lakeview and Mid City will fall under the OPSE, but it does exist as a possibility.  We will be staying on top of this issue to try to get that amendment protecting the special taxing districts reintroduced.

You may have some questions after reading this.  You are welcome to ask.  I don’t know if we will have an answer yet, but if we do, we will share it.  There are plenty of things that remain to be seen with this OPSE plan.  We will keep you updated as much as possible.

FOP CCL2

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Update on Paid Details and Promotions #NOPD #FOP @fopno

On Thursday, the Budget Committee for the New Orleans City Council met with funding for a sergeants exam and the proposed ordinances for the Office of Police Secondary Employment on its agenda.  Myself, Raymond Burkart, III, and Jim Gallagher were present on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police and its 1,100 active police officer members.

SERGEANTS EXAM

Fraternal Order of Police

Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant and Carey Grant introduced an ordinance to fund a sergeants exam.  Under the ordinance, $89,084 goes to the Civil Service Department for preparation and administration of a sergeants exam.  Andy Kopplin, representing the administration, suggested that the administration wanted to use a different source of funding for the sergeants exams, but were committed to funding an exam.  The Budget Committee passed the ordinance allotting the funds from the original source, giving the administration the option of presenting an alternative source of funding at the June 6, 2013 City Council Meeting.  One way or another, funding for a sergeants exam will be in front of the City Council at the June 6, 2013 meeting.  Click here to see the video.  Once you see the agenda, click on Ordinance No. 29,533.  The two ordinances are actually Nos. 29,548 and 29,549, but the video leads in to the right point.  Carey Grant, Andy Kopplin, Lisa Hudson, and Raymond Burkart speak on the matter.

DETAILS

Raymond Burkart, III argues on behalf of FOP

Raymond Burkart, III argues on behalf of FOP

The Office of Police Secondary Employment offered their two ordinances later in the meeting under Ordinance Nos. 29,470 and 29,471.  There was a Motion to Defer consideration by Councilmember Hedge-Morrell.  Ultimately, it was decided that the OPSE and the FOP would make their presentations and then the Chair would entertain a Motion to Defer if one were made.

The OPSE made their presentation.  A copy of the OPSE presentation can be found here.  There are no real surprises and I won’t attempt to summarize their presentation here.  Take a look at it.  It is interesting reading.  A copy of the OPSE budget for 2013-2015 can be found here.

The FOP made its presentation.  A copy of the FOP presentation can be found here.  Again, I am not going to bore people by recounting the whole presentation.  You can watch the video or check out the FOP presentation.

There were no additional speakers or presenters.

Following the meeting, the FOP sent this letter to City Council members, CAO Andy Kopplin, and OPSE Director John Salomone.

The letter summarizes the FOP’s position with regard to the reform of paid details.

The bottom line is that following the two presentations, Councilmember Hedge-Morrell made a Motion to Defer the two ordinances.  The Motion was seconded by Councilmember Head.  The meeting was adjourned immediately after.

These two ordinances that establish the detail pay scale and an enterprise fund through which detail money will be collected and paid, will be before the City Council Budget Committee again in the near future.

What does this mean in the big picture of things?  We are still standing in front of a moving train.  It is going to be difficult to stop it.  However, working with the City Council, the FOP is attempting to influence what we can in order to maximize the chances that officers will still be able to make their lives better for themselves and their families.  The letter we sent to members of the City Council summarizes our current position on paid detail matters.  We value input from members from the Fraternal Order of Police.  If you have suggestions on this, or any other, topic, please feel free to share them.

Grandfather Heavy, Grandfather Lite, Grandfather ain’t Coming to Visit No More – The New Orleans Domicile Ordinance

In 1995, the City of New Orleans implemented a domicile ordinance. The 1995 ordinance required that one live in the city to work for the city. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, the City Council waived the ordinance. It was waived once more and on December 31, 2012, those waivers expired. What we were left with was a domicile ordinance that could have significantly impacted the NOPD’s ability to recruit new officers.

The Fraternal Order of Police argued that the domicile ordinance should be permanently repealed. While we were lobbying for the ordinance’s repeal, it became clear that we did not have the votes on the Council and there was going to continue to be a domicile ordinance in some form.

City Council President Stacey Head took the lead on modernizing the ordinance. Under Councilmember Head’s amendment (Grandfather Heavy), the following changes would be implemented:

1. New police and fire hires would not have to comply with the domicile ordinance until they became regular employees (permanent employees).

2. For police employees, that would be 180 days after becoming a regular employee (after P/O I probationary period).

3. Any employee hired prior to January 1, 2013 would be globally exempt from the ordinance. That would mean that if you lived out of the city, you could remain out of the city and you would be free to establish a new domicile out of the parish without jeopardizing your employment. Finally, you could move into or out of the city as you saw fit.

If there had to be a domicile ordinance, which appeared to be the case, Councilmember Head’s ordinance seemed reasonable, especially if you were hired prior to January 1, 2013.

On March 4, 2013, the FOP appeared before the Governmental Affairs Committee for the City Council to again argue (.pdf) for the ordinance’s repeal. It appeared that Councilmember Head’s amendment, as outlined above, would be presented to the City Council on March 7, 2013.

On March 7, 2013, the FOP appeared before the New Orleans City Council to again argue for the repeal of the domicile ordinance (.pdf).

At that time, we learned that Councilmember Cantrell intended to introduce an amendment (Grandfather Lite) that would require anyone hired prior to January 1, 2013 who lived out of the city to move back into the city if they changed their actual domicile address. Furthermore, the amendment would have required you to move back within 180 days in order to accept a position at a higher classification (promotion).

A little while later, we learned that Councilmember Hedge-Morrell intended to introduce an amendment (Grandfather Lite) that would make it illegal for city employees hired prior to January 1, 2013 who lived in the city to move out of the city.

Councilmember Head’s amendment came up for a vote first and passed. Councilmember Hedge-Morrell’s amendment came up next and passed. Councilmember Cantrell’s amendment, one urged by Mayor Landrieu, came up next and failed.

What are we left with? Here is a gist of how the ordinance will look:

1. All city employees must live in the city.
2. In order to be hired by the City of New Orleans, you must live in the city. However, you will be given a 180 day grace period in which to comply. New police employees (after January 1, 2013), they will have 180 days from the point they become regular employees (permanent) to comply with the ordinance.
3. If you were hired prior to January 1, 2013, and you live outside of New Orleans, you can stay outside of New Orleans without effecting your employment or ability to be promoted.
4. If you were hired prior to January 1. 2013 and you live outside of New Orleans, but subsequently move back in to the city, you cannot move back out.
5. If you were hired prior to January 1, 2013 and you live in the City of New Orleans, you cannot move out. If you move out of the city, you would be in violation of the ordinance and subject to termination.
6. If you are hired after 12/31/12 and the applicable grace period has expired, you must live in the city and you cannot move out of the city.
7. You will be able to request a hardship waiver through your Appointing Authority (for police that is the Superintendent) and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the city. At this point, we do not know exactly how that will work.

The FOP would like to thank Councilmember Head for working closely on drafting this ordinance. She and her staff were very responsive to our concerns, even if we did not agree on everything. Hopefully the Council will realize the folly of this ordinance and repeal it in the near future.  You should feel free to contact your elected representatives and express your opinion.