Civil service rule proposal may contradict Crestwood charter

By EVAN YOUNG

A proposed change to Crestwood’s civil service rules on political activity may contradict an equivalent section in the City Charter.

The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to decide Tuesday, after press time, whether to move forward on a series of amendments to the Civil Service Rules and Regulations.

The changes were recommended by City Administrator Jim Eckrich and unanimously approved by the Civil Service Board in July.

Among the revisions is a modification to the “Political Activity” section, which outlines the political rights and restrictions of city employees in Chapter 2 of the rules and regulations.

The first statement of the section — prohibiting employees from using city resources or their position to contribute to or influence a political campaign, party or cause — would remain intact.

The modifications begin in the following two sentences, which currently read, “City employees may not participate in, or assist any candidate for, elections to city office except by individual ballot. Any employee may, however, participate or contribute to the election or appointment of public officials to offices outside the political jurisdiction of the city of Crestwood.”

The proposed revision removes the first sentence completely and changes the second to read, “Any employee may, however, participate in or contribute to a political candidate, political party or political cause so long as such participation or contribution occurs during the employee’s personal time and does not involve the use of any city resources.”

But allowing employees to openly participate in city politics appears to conflict with a provision in Article 13 of the City Charter, which states, “No city employee shall solicit any contribution for the campaign fund of any candidate for Crestwood city office or take part in the political campaign of any candidate for Crestwood city office.”

The charter was adopted by voters in 1995. The Board of Aldermen has the authority to draft amendments to the charter, but changes must be approved by voters to take effect.

Asked if the city would seek a referendum to amend the charter to ensure its political activity section is consistent with that of the revised civil service rules, Eckrich said the discussion hadn’t come up and deferred to City Attorney Rob Golterman.

Golterman told the Call that, in his opinion, the current civil service rules’ section on political activity is inconsistent with state and federal laws “regarding one’s constitutional rights to participate in the political process” and warranted the proposed amendment.

Whether the civil service rules and City Charter would contradict each other if that amendment were approved is a matter of interpretation, the city attorney said.

“My recollection is the charter simply says that they cannot take part in any campaign. It’s not defined in any matter,” Golterman said of the document’s political activity section. “Obviously the civil service rules better define that, or supplement that phrase, so I don’t know that there’s a conflict. I would say the civil service rules are more explanatory as to what would be allowed in terms of participating in the election process.

“It depends on how the city would interpret the phrase ‘take part in the political campaign.’ If you want to interpret that very broadly, it could include just about anything, and I guess you could then say that there’s a conflict. If you want to interpret that narrowly, you could interpret it narrowly and basically read the civil service rules as providing more definition as to what employees can or cannot do. But … whether there’s a conflict or not, if the charter is in violation of state or federal law, the city is not going to be able to enforce the charter in that regard.”

If the board had concerns about a conflict within the charter, it could take the appropriate action, Golterman said.

“I’m not sure if that’s necessary at this point,” he added.

Among other proposed amendments to the civil service rules:

• Adding language to the city’s alcohol and controlled substance policy so the section applies to employees who don’t operate commercial vehicles for the city

• Eliminating the assistant city administrator, director of public services and the community and economic development manager from the list of city positions not covered by civil service rules and regulations, outlined in Chapter 1

The modification also adds the public works director and parks and recreation director to the list of exclusions. Further, it gives the Board of Aldermen the authority to designate an employee as excluded from civil service provisions.