By Kevin Kelley
Civil Service Commission Chairman Steve Presley didn’t intend to vote in favor of a rule change that would allow the mayor to appoint a new police or fire chief from among the top two candidates. But at the three-member commission’s Friday morning meeting, he did. As a result, the rule change was adopted.
Shortly after the vote and adjournment of the meeting, Presley explained to West Life why he was against the rule change he voted in favor of.
“I’ve seen nothing in my time on civil Service where the top scorer hasn’t been the person who should get the position,” Presley said.
As West Life asked for clarification on which of the four rule changes he was talking about, Westlake Clerk of Commissions Nicolette Sackman and Assistant Law Director Robin Leasure pointed out that Presley had in fact voted for the rule change.
Presley, who berated himself for the mistake, said he believed the mix-up occurred because his pages containing the rule changes were out of order from the order listed on the meeting agenda.
Presley said the board will meet Monday morning at Westlake City Hall to vote again on the rule change. It’s expected to fail by a 2-1 vote.
“I want to get this cleared up as soon as possible,” he said.
Currently, civil service tests are given when the post of police or fire chief will become vacant. The candidate scoring highest on the test automatically is promoted to chief under the current rules.
The commission was considering the rule changes because of confusion that followed the February 2013 police chief test. Past tests consisted of a written portion and an assessment center portion, and the civil service rules reflected that. However, the February 2013 police chief test consisted of just the assessment center portion, which itself included two written and two oral exams. Because the rules stated that extra credit points for education and seniority should be applied to the written test, confusion arose as to how the results should have been calculated.
Capt. Eric Schantz initially was determined to be the high scorer. But Lt. Kevin Bielozer later questioned the scoring and became police chief.
Because the commission was updating its rules, Mayor Denis Clough requested a rule change that would allow the mayor to appoint the chief from the top two test scorers.
Presley said the testing process should yield the best candidate. If it doesn’t, then perhaps the testing process needs to be changed.
Board member Maria Gregg voted against Clough’s proposed rule change.
“Civil service rules are there for a reason, and they shouldn’t be tailored to any given mayor at any given time,” she told West Life. She added she has nothing against Clough, but she has concerns over any chief executive appointing a chief.
“I think it should be whoever scores the highest according to the rules,” she said.
Member Timothy Warner voted for the rule change but declined to elaborate.
“I don’t have a comment other than the vote itself,” he told West Life.
A proposed rule change that would given anyone who took a civil service promotional exam five business days to later review the questions and answers and 10 days to appeal the scoring failed due to Presley’s confusion. He thought his no vote on that rule change was against Clough’s proposal.
The two other proposed rule changes passed. One clarified how extra credit for seniority and academic degrees was awarded. The other clarified that a written test is no longer separate form the assessment of the exam for chiefs.