Civil Service Commission hearing gets heated - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Civil Service Commission hearing gets heated

A public hearing on proposed changes for city hall's personnel system had some heated moments.

Comments by the city's chief administrative officer had some accusing him of playing the race card.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said the city's personnel system is outdated and he wants to overhaul it, giving city department heads more flexibility in hiring and promoting workers. Landrieu is also proposing a minimum wage for city employees of $10.10 an hour.

Portions of the proposed changes to civil service rules are meeting some pushback from unions for police and fire fighters.

"If it is passed, I promise you we will be challenging it and we will explore all the legal challenges," said Michael Glasser, President of the Police Association of New Orleans.

Objections to a proposal that would do away with the so called "Rule of 3," which requires city hall managers to consider the top three performers on the civil service exam, have not been quieted.

"Lots of Civil Service Departments in the state of Louisiana and across the country have moved away from those restrictions," said Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.

The city's inspector general weighed in on the Rule 3 issue.

"And the Rule of 3 is an excellent example of bureaucracy run amuck," said I-G Ed Quatrevaux.

Critics said the proposed changes would give this mayor and those to follow too much control over the hiring process. Department heads serve at the pleasure of the city's mayor.

"It gives way too much authority and discretion to the mayor and his appointees. That is exactly what Civil Service was designed to prevent," said Glasser.

Kopplin said the civil service test has an adverse impact on minorities, especially in terms of promotions, and does not take into account work history. In making his argument, he spoke of the fire department.

"Those who scored at the top of the test taking were predominantly white, and those who had passing scores, but at the bottom of the distribution of passing scores, they were disproportionately minority," said Kopplin.

Kopplin's comments about minorities and the Civil Service test outraged the head of the New Orleans Fire Fighters' Union. Nick Felton got up during the meeting and demanded an apology.

"He needs to apologize to all African Americans who work hard, and study. {applause} Okay, that was absolutely insensitive, Donald Sterling type comment with the Clippers. You ought to be banned from here to do that, that's ridiculous," stated Felton.

The city's fire department superintendent publicly backed up Kopplin's statement.

"Exam results that CAO Kopplin spoke of are a reflection of that. Didn't like hearing it, but facts are facts," said Fire Chief Tim McConnell.

And when asked about Felton's demand for an apology, Kopplin responded:

"I think that he ought to review the past history because a lot of folks who've looked at testing and seen that there's bias in testing and we want to make sure, again, to the fire fighters who are working hard every day, doing a great job, that they're not discriminated against by not being able to be promoted."

The Civil Service Commission did not make a decision on the proposed changes.

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