Attorneys for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) today asked the Civil Service Commission to stop approving provisional promotions — made at management's discretion without normally required testing and training — in the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD).
Superintendent Ronal Serpas and the Landrieu Administration did not recommend $147,000 the Civil Service Department requested for sergeant exams in this year's budget. That budget item has gone unfunded for the last several years. During budget talks in November, personnel administrator Lisa Hudson told City Council that the department has not performed promotional exams for sergeants since 2007. As a result, sergeant and captain registers have expired and the NOPD has made at-will appointments, FOP attorney Donovan Livaccari said today.
"And the register for lieutenants is on life support," he said, as a result of requests from the department to eliminate it.
Livaccari said the lack of funding for tests and the elimination of promotions lists constitute and "end-around" the city's civil service rules.
The superintendent has made it clear that he wants to make provisional appointments," he said. "All of this flies in the face of a merit-based system. It's not good for the department. It's not good for the employees."
Raymond Burkart, who also represents the FOP, said under the current system, a patrol officer with virtually no training could quickly advance to provisional sergeant to provisional lieutenant and finally as high as district commander, "without any kind of schooling, any kind of training. Nothing."
Burkart pleaded with the commission to refuse the promotions until City Council provides extra funding for tests.
"It's not about politics as far as [the Civil Service Commission is] concerned. It's about politics as far as
provisional sergeant appointments, the provisional captains, the provisional lieutenants are concerned."
Also in today's meeting, personnel administrator Robert Hagmann updated the commission on proposed rule changes to the city's emergency overtime pay system, which drew scrutiny after an investigation by WVUE found that some of the city's highest paid employees took home huge emergency and overtime checks during the Hurricane Isaac emergency declaration. In December, Civil Service staff members floated the idea of eliminating the extra pay for any employee whose salary is above $100,000 per year. The department has since sent out questionnaires on emergency pay to a number of cities that frequently experience hurricanes and will present a full report, with recommendations, next month.
Finally, the story which will be most heavily covered elsewhere (has not been as of this writing). In the pre-business (or docket) portion of the meeting, which I did not attend, the Office of the Inspector General told the Civil Service Commission that former NOPD 8th District Commander Edwin Hosli, who was suspended in 2011 in the midst of an investigation into the city's red light camera program and since put on desk duty, is being investigated for possible criminal activity. The OIG provided no further details.
OIG, city confirmed Hosli is subject of investigation into possible criminal activity during Civil Service Commission hearing ...
— Ramon Antonio Vargas (@RamonTonoVargas) February 18, 2013
Hosli's attorneys came to the meeting to argue that Hosli should be put back on regular duty. The commission did not vote on the request, instead taking it under advisement.