Civil Service Commission: Firefighters want official ruling ending Mardi Gras barricade duty



New Orleans Firefighters Association president Nick Felton is asking the New Orleans Civil Service Commission (CSC) for ruling that would put to a stop the city's past practice of ordering New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) full-time personnel or temporary workers from setting up and working sidewalk barricades during Mardi Gras season.

At today's CSC monthly meeting, Felton said taking firefighters off duty to perform law enforcement work has, in prior years, resulted in increased response time and fewer first-responders ("to the tune of 40 firefighters," at times, Felton said) available for emergency work.

"We were told it wouldn't happen again," in 2012, Felton said. "This year, it happened again."

In the run-up to this year's festivities, Lt. Col. Jerry Sneed, deputy mayor of public safety, told NOFD that firefighters would again be asked to work barricades, against association objections. Ultimately, the city reached a compromise: some temporary NOFD workers, along with other departments, would help out with barricade set-up but not enforcement, Fox 8 reported on Feb. 15.

(More after the jump)

Commission members told Felton that they couldn't rule on the request without a specific complaint from one or more NOFD employees claiming that they were being made to work beyond the scope of their duties. Felton said that such a document would be submitted to the city's personnel department "before the sun goes down" today.

New meeting procedures

Attorney Gilbert Buras today presented new proposed meeting procedures for the commission that would bring the meetings more in line with City Council procedure. Under the proposed rules, attendees wishing to make public comments would be required to fill out request cards in advance. Anticipating increased attendance later this year — as the body begins to take up long-awaited changes to Civil Service Rules *— Buras said, "We need to get it a little more formalized."

The new procedures would also allow the CSC to recess "at any time" provided the recesses are used only when acting in its "quasi-judicial capacity" — considering appeals of appeals of employee disciplinary actions. Closed executive sessions, now often used at every monthly meeting, often without a stated reason, would only be convened for specific reasons conforming to state law. The CSC would also be required to state publicly why it is meeting in executive sessions.

*(Note: As reported by The Times-Picayune, Forward New Orleans has added civil service overhaul to its list of demands to New Orleans politicians. FNO is a project of the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region and is headed up, or at least represented in media reports, by Gregory Rusovich, CEO of Transoceanic Trading and Development and a frequent GOP contributor nationally.

Locally, state Ethics Administration records show that he's made campaign contributions to five of the seven current City Council members, including Stacy Head, by most accounts the favorite to win the March 24 election for the open At-Large Council seat now held by Interim Council Member Eric Granderson. Rusovich didn't contribute to District "E" Councilman Jon Johnson or Granderson, who took over his former boss Arnie Fielkow's seat last fall. Rusovich has contributed to Fielkow.)

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