"The whole point is that you're not supposed to just be able to hire your buddy," said Mr. Cheliotes. ...Crains NYLeonie Haimson reports:
Fascinating story below – apparently under Bloomberg, the city hired more than 37,000 employees w/out going through the proper Civil Service process, including passing required exams; more than 20,000 of them remain. According to court order and a new state law they have to pass these exams or be replaced by end of 2016. More than 4,000 of these employees remaining are at DOE. Does anyone know what sorts of positions these people hold? 4,000 is a lot of educrats; are they also teachers? We’ve lost more than 5,000 teachers since 2007.My take? Of course the Manhattan Institute and Crain's consider these political appointees Brains rather than Brainless.
Brain drain looms for de Blasio
Layoffs for city workers have begun and could run into the thousands.
The de Blasio administration is facing a major brain drain as a court decision, civil-service rules and state law will force it to shed thousands of experienced middle managers across dozens of city agencies.
The upheaval has already begun in some quarters: A city source said the Department of Design and Construction started letting employees go in August and September, and a spokesman for the agency confirmed that 15 had lost their jobs last month.
But the real bloodletting will occur over the next two years.
This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration will submit a plan to the state Civil Service Commission detailing how the city will slash thousands of "provisional" employees from its payroll. The city must replace most of them with "permanent" employees by the end of 2016.
Some of these provisional workers—who, as their titles suggest, were supposed to be temporary—have been on the city payroll for years.
The state constitution dictates that governmental appointments be based on "merit and fitness," and for many job classifications that is determined by scores on civil-service exams. In many cases, only the top three scorers are allowed to be interviewed for a position.
Circumventing the systemThe longstanding policy was designed to root out political patronage. But former Mayor Michael Bloomberg felt hamstrung by it because the exam scores reflect knowledge of agency procedures and other arcane facts but not necessarily work experience, managerial skills, temperament and other qualities.
The mayor therefore had his agencies circumvent the system by hiring "provisional" employees. By 2007, nearly 37,000 were swelling the ranks of city government, occupying more than 19% of the "competitive" city job titles that were supposed to be filled based on exam scores.
"The civil-service system was a progressive reform to ensure good government—but that was 100 years ago," said Steve Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "Now there's far more sophisticated technology and different types of positions. But you may still want this kind of test for someone working in the Sanitation Department. There are no easy answers to this."
Mr. Bloomberg's work-around was dealt a major blow by a 2007 court decision in a case pitting Long Beach, L.I., against CSEA, a labor union representing employees in the town. The court found it unlawful for municipalities in the state to retain provisional employees for more than nine months.
To be in substantial compliance with the ruling, New York City needed to slash the portion of competitive jobs held by provisional workers to 5%—down to about 9,500. In 2008, the Bloomberg administration developed a plan to cut the provisional ranks to just 3,300 within five years. But it fell well short: As of late last year, nearly 22,500 provisional employees were still on the payroll, according to a city report.
'As fast as they could'"They went as fast as they reasonably could," argued one source close to the process, alluding to the impact that wholesale personnel changes would have had on city operations.
Data released late last year show the Department of Education had more than 4,000 provisional employees, while the Parks Department, Housing Authority, Human Resources Administration and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene each had more than 1,000. Current provisional employees are being encouraged by their agencies to take civil-service exams.
Many of these provisional employees are union members, said Arthur Cheliotes, president of the Communications Workers Local 1180. Still, public-sector labor leaders chafed because the provisional workers lacked civil-service protections and were afraid to call out managers' misdeeds, including contracting abuses, he said.
Unions also felt the Bloomberg administration was stifling the upward mobility of civil-service workers by hiring provisional managers rather than promoting from the lower ranks.
"It used to be that these kinds of appointments came from the political clubs. [Then] they started coming from the country clubs," wisecracked Mr. Cheliotes, who chairs the civil-service committee for the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group for city unions.
Unions push city to actLabor interests, which had felt that the Bloomberg administration dragged its feet in complying with the court ruling, pressed the state Legislature to accelerate the process. This year, two Brooklyn lawmakers, Republican state Sen. Martin Golden and Democratic Assemblyman Peter Abbate, advanced bills giving the city a deadline, and after negotiations with the de Blasio administration, a deal was struck to give it until the end of 2016. (Labor sources said the administration, fearing rapid turnover would disrupt agencies, wanted much more time than it got.)
The bill also required the city to issue a new plan to achieve compliance. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law in August. On Oct. 8, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services is expected to issue a plan on how the city will comply with the court decision.
An agency deputy commissioner, Julianne Cho, declined to comment until the plan is released.
The department is now headed by a de Blasio appointee, Stacey Cumberbatch. She and Ms. Cho are both Bloomberg holdovers.
Labor leaders had grumbled that the Bloomberg administration did not schedule enough civil-service exams and often tried to reclassify provisional employees' jobs to exempt them from civil-service rules.
The de Blasio administration, however, has been "vigorous" in giving civil-service exams, Mr. Cheliotes said. Top scorers can fill jobs currently held by provisional employees, some of whom have been taking the tests in an effort to stay on.
"The whole point is that you're not supposed to just be able to hire your buddy," said Mr. Cheliotes. "Now there will be an opportunity to take the tests. And the general public will have as much access to the jobs as anyone else."
A version of this article appears in the October 6, 2014, print issue of Crain's New York Business.