Westlake’s Civil Service Change Questioned

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:                                                                                                    2-2-14

The foundation of the civil service system is to insure that the best person for the job is selected based on merit through examination. It has been the cornerstone of good government in this country since 1883.

Now a civil service rule change has been proposed for all promotions in the City of Westlake Police and Fire Depts. Current Rule IX, section 5 is clear and unambiguous: the man or woman achieving the highest passing grade receives the promotion.

The proposed change would allow the mayor to select his choice from among the top three candidates who receive a passing score for all promotions. Yes, that is right: the mayor would select each of the sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and chief in the police department. He would also have his pick of the top three candidates for each of the lieutenants, captains, assistant chief, and chief of the fire department. That means 13 police supervisors and 12 fire supervisors are personally selected by the mayor, instead of on their own merits.

Not only does this concentrate too much power in the hands of one politician, it completely negates the purpose and outcomes of competitive civil service testing. If the tests are designed to identify the best person for the job, why tamper with the outcome?

In such cases the candidate with the highest score is left to wonder why he exerted himself, only to be passed over. The chosen candidate with a lower score comes in to his new leadership position under a cloud; his subordinates ask themselves what political considerations fostered that move into a command position. The last time the rules for promotion to chief of police or fire were amended, the Civil Service Commission spoke clearly and resoundingly: the top scorer gets the job. That shows a commendably keen insight into keeping politics out of your public safety agencies.

I chose Westlake in 1986 as where I wanted to live and raise a family and am well pleased with the delivery of city services. Our fire and police management (and I am one of the latter) are the equal if not the envy of their peers in the Westshore. I intend to do all I can to keep it that way.

Please contact your elected officials and the 3 Civil Service Commissioners and have them quash this lamentable return to the patronage and spoils of a bygone era.

Guy Turner

Westlake, OH