Democrats Halt Civil Service Changes

TRENTON – The state Senate approved a Democrat-sponsored resolution on Thursday objecting to the Civil Service Commission’s proposed job banding program because it violates the legislative intent established in New Jersey’s constitution.

The Assembly approved the resolution on Monday, so  the commission now has 30 days following transmittal of the resolution to amend or withdraw the proposed regulations.The Legislature may also pass another concurrent resolution to exercise its constitutional authority to invalidate the regulations in whole or in part.

The measure’s sponsors noted that the civil service system in New Jersey, once a statutory creation, gained permanence through its inclusion in the New Jersey Constitution, which provides that appointments and promotions in the civil service system must be made according to merit and fitness, to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by competitive examination.

But on March 18, the state Civil Service Commission published proposed rule changes to establish a new job banding program for positions in both state and local service. The proposed job banding program gives substantial discretion to civil service employers, potentially imperiling or curtailing veterans’ preference and advancement opportunities for women, minorities, those with disabilities and those vulnerable to discriminatory practices.

“New Jersey’s veterans should be appalled at the Civil Service Commission’s plan to effectively strip away veterans’ preferences within the state’s civil service system. As a proud veteran myself, I feel that this end run around veterans’ preference – which ensures that a veteran cannot be passed over for a promotion over a non-veteran – is despicable,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union.) “The civil service system’s structure protects minorities and the disadvantaged, ensuring that management does not cherry-pick who gets a promotion within our state and local governments. These rule changes will be a step backwards for those workers who are gay, women, minorities or older, stripping them of the protections against cronyism and bias. Employees need to know that their merits and expertise are what will help them advance, rather than currying favors with those making the hiring decisions.”

“Governor Christie is attempting to replace a fair, merit-based promotion system with one where who you know is more important than what you know. Civil service regulations were implemented to prevent the exact sort of cronyism Chris Christie is trying to force through,” said Alicia D’Alessandro, chair of NJ Workers’ Voices, a political action committee that identifies itself as representing all working families, union and non-union.

“Promotions should be earned through job performance, not personal relationships,” D’Alessandro continued. “When it comes to civil service employees, Governor Christie owes it to New Jersey taxpayers to ensure that our tax dollars are being spent to hire and promote the very best employees, not just the ones who have an ‘in’ with Christie and his pals.”

The resolution (ACR-199/SCR-158), approved 24-13 by the Senate Thursday, notes that the proposed rule change is contrary to the spirit, intent, and plain meaning of these provisions in the New Jersey Constitution.

Specifically, the measure notes that the proposed changes are not consistent with legislative intent because they violate a number of constitutional edicts, including:

  • that employees be selected and advanced on the basis of their relative knowledge, skills and abilities;
  • that equal employment opportunities are ensured at all levels of public service to protect career public employees from political coercion;
  • that a competitive promotional examination process be established; and
  • that veterans ranking highest on a promotional certification receive preference.

Under the proposed rule change, the appeal process would also be unavailable to employees who have not been selected for an advancement appointment under the proposed job banding program. Instead, a less protective grievance appeal procedure would be used.

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