New Jersey Civil Service Law

I propose to strengthen civil service law. I will explain why here. This is one area which does not require a constitutional change so, technically, the executive branch of government can present a revised law to the legislature. I expect considerable resistance to the changes and I will attempt to explain why.

New Jersey has the New Jersey Statutes Annotated or NJSA and the New Jersey Administrative Code or NJAC. The first is the actual laws passed by the legislature. The latter is the set of laws and rules which implement the laws of NJSA. Thus, when we talk about civil service, the pertaining title in NJSA is 11A and the corresponding title in NJAC is 4A. NJAC4A enforces NJSA11A.

Civil service was created in New Jersey to shield the state government employees of political pressures and influences. At the core of the system, the rationale followed the principles of the British civil service throughout the empire – notably India – where servants would perform their functions honestly and efficiently without fear of retribution because of local influences or after a change of government in Simla or London.

Our civil service has three categories of servants: 1. Senior executive service; 2. Career service; and 3. Unclassified service.

Furthermore, civil service is divided into state and local services. Local service includes counties, municipalities, and independent authorities and commissions. For the purpose of labeling, I will use SS and LS to denote state and local services hereon.

1. The senior executive service is limited to 1200 persons in the State service and 85% of those must be from the career service.

2. The career service included all the positions (positions have and are known by their titles, i.e. Senior Maintenance Worker) for which applicant must take examinations and are rated according to score. This is the category which I intend to expand, at the expense of the last one:

3. Unclassified service. It is here where the bulk of the political patronage and nepotism occurs. Individuals are hired at the discretion of the employer, without even advertising the job opening in any form. Often there is no need for a position but someone needs a job and knows a politician who then asks an agency to create a position for that person. No one else has a shot at that job even though it is a public position. Often, the appointees lack the qualifications for the positions or worse, the positions have no job attached to it. Appointees may show up every day on time and still do nothing. Of course, this person is an unconditional political supporter and often a donor to his “benefactor.”

Political patronage is a powerful instrument of political control which the two political parties will loathe to give up.

It is this category which I intend to reduce to a bare minimum. Governor Christie has put up a show in a few instances, firing some political appointees here and there. But for everyone fired there are 100 who remain. He knows it very well. To close this bleeding of the fiscal resources in both SS and LS, we must tighten the law. That is what I plan to do.

Governor Christie has also proposed in his tool kit to allow LS municipalities to opt out of civil service. This, undoubtedly, would increase the abuses.