Aldermen defeat changes to city’s civil service rules

‘We’re frustrated, obviously,’ Local 2665 official tells Call


A series of amendments to the Crestwood Civil Service Rules and Regulations were defeated last week by the Board of Aldermen.

The board voted 4-3 on the second reading of an ordinance that would have modified three sections of the civil service rules.

Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan, Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel and Ward 4 Aldermen Deborah Beezley and John Foote voted in favor of the bill. Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach, Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Schlink and Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel were opposed. Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild abstained.

The ordinance was not approved as it did not receive five affirmative votes. It would have modified the civil service guidelines to re-store “bumping” privileges to the layoff policy; added language to the alcohol and controlled substance policy and eliminated the current language in the article on employee political activity — replacing it with the Crestwood Charter’s language on political activity.

Last week’s decision could reopen negotiations with city firefighters, who are represented by Local 2665 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Local 2665 and city officials recently negotiated a new, three-year memorandum of understanding. While the MOU and civil service rules are separate documents, the MOU at several points references sections in the civil service rules — including the articles on layoffs, alcohol and controlled substance and employee political activity.

Both City Attorney Rob Golterman and Kurt Becker, a vice president with Local 2665, have said the union agreed on the MOU with the understanding that aldermen would approve the modifications to the civil service rules and would ask to re-open negotiations if those modifications were changed or rejected by the board.

“We’re frustrated, obviously, but we remain hopeful that we’re going to be able to work in a collaborative fashion with this board,” Becker told the Call, adding, though, the board’s decision “kind of undermines the authority” of the fire chief and other city officials who represented the city during negotiations.

“It certainly begs the question why they’re involved in the process if it is indeed the board that wants to negotiate this contract with its employees,” Becker said. “That’s a departure, candidly, from what is the normal practice in a lot of the other communities with which we work.”

He added, “I think what we’re going to be seeking is some clarification as to who actually has the authority to make these decisions on behalf of the city.”

Schlink said at last week’s board meeting that placing all three proposed modifications in one ordinance made it difficult for him to support the legislation.

If the union wanted those three provisions included in the MOU, it should not have cross referenced a living document — the civil service rules — that can be amended at any time, he said.

But Becker said Local 2665 doesn’t “generally endorse the idea of just broadly referencing … civil service documents or anything of that nature when we sign these contracts.”

Usually, any desired language from those documents is included in its entirety in an appendix attached to the MOU, he said.

“That way everybody who is working on this and working on this document in the future understands this is what was agreed upon,” Becker said.

Aldermen have debated at length over the copying of the charter’s section on employee political activity into the civil service rules. Golterman has contended the current political activity article in the civil service rules could infringe on employees’ constitutional right to be politically active because it prohibits them from participating in city campaigns except by voting. Employees have a right to express their opinions, as private citizens, on local political issues as long as they don’t do it on public time or with public money and equipment, Golterman and Becker have said.

The city attorney has recommended using the charter’s “broad” language and then drafting further “guidance or policy” to demonstrate specifically what employees can and can’t do politically.

But Miguel has contended allowing employees to politic locally — even as private citizens — will open the door to “liabilities or potential lawsuits further down the line.”

He also has questioned why Golterman did not have a problem with the civil service rules language on political activity when the document was extensively reviewed in 2006 and 2007 by the Civil Service Board.

One of its members at the time, Gretchen Huston, formerly was an attorney for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, he noted.

“If there was any issue there with First Amendment rights, she would’ve caught it when she was on the commission that rewrote the civil service rules,” Miguel said last week.

Golterman said the city began to review the document again a year to 18 months ago after a city employee came forward with a question about political activity.

“(I)t was at that point that — as I’ve said a number of times — we realized that the language in the civil service rules was different in the memorandum of understanding, and both of those were different from language in the charter,” Golterman said at last week’s meeting. “And I wish we had not set out on this course eight months ago, but we set out on a course to make all the language the same, to reflect the charter, and then to the extent that further guidance or clarification or additional policy is needed to be established, we could work on those to apply across the board. That’s how we got here.”

Miguel said, “Did I hear you say that you wished that we hadn’t gone down this path?”

The city attorney replied, “If I knew eight months ago what I know now, the amount of time that’s being wasted for exactly what I just explained we’re trying to do — we’re trying to make it better for employees in the city. There are people in the city who are questioning our motives, questioning our integrity and are questioning whether or not we have some ulterior motive. And that’s not worth it, because all we tried to do was to make it more clear and simplified so that everybody’s on the same page.”

While Local 2665 supported his election campaign in 2005, Mayor Roy Robinson said last week he wanted to make it clear that he was not involved with MOU negotiations or civil service rules modifications.

“Yes, the union did support me when I ran for mayor. No, I never promised them anything except a fair shake and to be able to listen to their concerns,” he said. “I have had no part in the civil service rules or had no part in the memorandum of understanding. Nobody’s asked me anything and I’ve given no directions to it … I have had no part in any of that and would not have any part in it.

“I don’t consider myself needing to do favors for the fire department or anybody else or union, because I really don’t need their money or their support. But I want them to get a fair shake … They got no instructions from me on doing anything except I wanted to make sure that we protect the city. And that’s what we’ve done as far as I understand it.

“So anybody else, like the city attorney said, who had their opinions that there’s motives behind what we do, there is no motives behind anything,” Robinson continued. “We didn’t do anything to try to en-courage it, and we’re trying to get things done for the best interest of the city.”