A fight is brewing in City Hall for control of Civil Service, the testing system that falls outside mayoral discretionary appointment power.
Ralph Jacobs is the city’s personnel director overseeing Civil Service and some say he plays by the book. Mayor Bill Finch believes Jacobs plays by his own rules and wants him out. In order to do that Finch needs termination support from Civil Service commissioners.
Finch is trying to line up the votes to make that happen as city officials lobby a case to remove Jacobs for cause. Finch wants to put his own person in there something he can do on a provisional basis and then take his time ordering a test for a permanent replacement. This would guarantee the mayor more influence to fill positions.
Civil Service in Bridgeport was implemented in the mid 1930s by Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy, a reformer who promised to break the political spoils system for hiring city employees. In the old days government was the bastion of political operatives and that led to abuses. The system, however, has its flaws in the flexibility of hire. For one thing, the prevailing rule of one.
The police chief and fire chief positions, through a charter change 20 years ago, gives the mayor the appointment power to choose from the top three finalists. Each can receive up to two five-year terms.
Bridgeport mayors in general have far fewer discretionary appointments than they had decades ago made more difficult during tough economic times to reward political supporters. A personnel director has some flexibility to work with a mayor in squeezing in provisional appointments. From what I’m hearing Jacobs is not inclined to play ball with the mayor. The city is being advised by labor law specialist Mike Devlin in how to proceed against Jacobs. Jacobs has hired former Mayor Tom Bucci, also an accomplished labor lawyer, to defend him.
And so it goes.
(check out my daily blog at www.onlyinbridgeport.com)