New Jersey Politicians Have Broken N.J. Civil Service Law

I propose to strengthen Civil Service Law rapidly. Why?. Because 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. Both political parties have gradually degraded the C.S. Law to the point where it does not work any longer: It is broken. 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 from 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.

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 applicants 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 genuine work attached to them. 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.” Unclassified appointees serve at the discretion of the Appointing Authority and that is why, with every change in government we see a multitude of changes everywhere.

However, at times politicians of the two parties make a “gentlemen agreement” keeping each others’ appointees employed> It is then we we see the ranks of an organization swell because with every new administration a new wake of hacks comes in but nobody leaves.

Political patronage is a powerful instrument of political control which the two political parties will loathe to give up. Most if not all the appointments that governor Christie has made at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been in the unclassified service.

It is this category – Unclassified service – 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 State Service  and Local Service, we must tighten the law. That is what I plan to do.

Christie also attempted to mislead the public by closing some authorities and commissions in 2011.  But they had been empty for years. They were paper agencies. Not a single job was eliminated.

Governor Christie has proposed in his tool kit to allow Local Service municipalities to opt out of Civil Service. This, undoubtedly, would increase the abuses. teachers tenure, although not part of Civil Service, works in a similar way and is also a target of the administration with the complicity of a number of democrats in the Legislature.

The myth frequently used by politicians to justify the further dismantling of the barriers to political patronage is that both Civil Service and Tenure make the firing of a bad employee impossible. “It is employment for life” – they say.  That is an absolute lie. The two systems provide due process. Discipline must be for just cause. And employment must be granted through a system of exams and vetting; not by “connections.”

Some politicians have been very able in exploiting the frustration in the private sector with the recession (that they created), high unemployment, and stagnant wages to instigate the private sector workers against the public sector. But I do believe that most people are beginning to see the truth through the smoke.