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Civil Service wars

Attorney warns of possible abuse, patronage

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  Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) attorney Eric Hessler told the New Orleans Civil Service Commission (CSC) last week that Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plan to overhaul the city's civil service rules would open the door to abuse and political patronage in city personnel decisions. Hessler also criticized commission members for working closely with the administration on the plan despite their position as independent arbiters.

  "The proposed rule changes as we see them ... are extremely damaging to your mandate to guard against political patronage, assure fair testing occurs and that promoting, hiring and firing decisions are above board," Hessler said at the meeting.

  In September, PANO uncovered internal administration documents — including draft plans written by Minnesota-based consultant the Public Strategies Group — as well as correspondence that identified Loyola University President and CSC Chairman The Rev. Kevin Wildes as being a leader in developing the plan. The CSC ultimately would have to vote on adopting any changes to civil service rules. The city has yet to submit anything to the CSC and a vote likely won't come until 2013.

  Both Wildes and Commissioner Dana Douglas said that since nothing official has come before the commission, it would be premature to discuss what are now drafts. "We will hold public hearings" before any vote, Wildes said. — Charles Maldonado

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