Mayor slams civil service, defends improperly hired S&WB employees

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The mayor took a hit at the city's civil service department after it identified three Sewerage and Water Board employees the department found were hired improperly.

"These were technical issues and technical issues only," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Landrieu addressed the Sewerage and Water Board about its three employees found to be improperly hired.

"Civil service kinds of throws a flag if you don't line up right on the line," he said.

According to our partners at | The Times Picayune, the civil service has two reports revealing the employees have either been doing work different from their official job duties or serving in positions that were never approved.

"Essentially these three employees they were talking about have been working their behinds off and doing really, really great work," said Landrieu.

Muhammed Owusu was a construction project manager, but according to a civil service report, his resume shows he has no professional construction experience and had been doing human resource work.

Hayne Rainey was the intergovernmental relations manager, but the civil service says that position doesn't exist within the Sewerage and Water Board.

Zachary Hudson was hired as press secretary, appointed as a classified utilities service manager. It was supposed to be temporary, but he was soon moved to another position that doesn't officially exist.

While Mayor Landrieu said they have to follow the rules, he says it's also important to find qualified employees but says the city's civil service gets in the way.

"Civil Service, in my opinion...although its intent is good, it's gotten in a position of being really slow and bureaucratic. And has made it really, really difficult to hire good people at high salaries and made it really hard for organizations to be excellent at what they do," said Landrieu.

Landrieu goes on to emphasize these employees were honest and hard-working, and the only reason they're not in their initial positions anymore is because of technical errors.

Sewerage and Water Board officials say they transferred one position to the PDU unit, which handles construction projects. They say they're in the process of transferring one of the other employees to a classified position.

Officials say they are reviewing the employees' resumes, and the board is lining them up with the classified positions that are available.

FOX 8 asked the Civil Service Commission about the mayor's comments. Chairwoman Michelle Craig sent us the following statement:

"We have been working with the Sewerage and Water Board Interim Leadership team regarding numerous staffing issues, including identifying suitable candidates for vacant Sewerage positions.  An additional matter we raised with the Interim Leadership Team was the unauthorized appointment of unclassified employees.  We appreciate the S&WB's Interim Leadership's willingness to work with members of our staff on this and other issues. The Interim Leadership Team has recognized that there are issues with several appointments and has committed to addressing them before the Commission's next meeting."