By Kevin Kelley
The current practice in which the top scorer in civil service exams for police chief or fire chief automatically gets the job will continue.
By a 2-1 vote, the city’s three-member civil service commission on Monday defeated a rule changed proposed by Mayor Dennis Clough that would allow the mayor to appoint the chief from among the top two candidates.
It was the second vote on the rule change in two business days. Civil Service Commission Chairman Steve Presley erroneously voted in favor of the proposed rule change during a Friday meeting of the board because his pages containing the rule changes were out of order from the order listed on the meeting agenda.
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.
Thus another meeting, and another vote, were scheduled for Monday morning.
Presley explained to West Life why he was against the proposed rule change.
“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 Friday. Presley said the testing process should yield the best candidate. If it doesn’t, then perhaps the testing process needs to be changed, he said.
Board member Maria Gregg also 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 Friday. 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 on Friday.
The commission reviewed its rules 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 Dennis Clough requested a rule change that would allow the mayor to appoint the chief from the top two test scorers.
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 passed by a 3-0 vote Monday, according to Sackman. That measure had mistakenly failed Monday due to the confusion over the order of the votes.
Two other proposed rule changes passed during Friday’s meeting. One clarified how extra credit for seniority and academic degrees was awarded. The other clarified that a written test is no longer separate from the assessment of the exam for chiefs.