Sunday, November 16, 2014

In Case You Need A Reminder, Cronyism Is Bad

If there is one hiring issue that the Civil Service Commission has been consistent on in recent years, it is that familial ties cannot play any role in the appointment process. Two decisions issued by the Commission last wek show that some police chiefs are still not getting the message somehow. In one case, Minoie v. Town of Braintree, the police chief personally wrote to the Human Resources Division asking for three candidates to be removed from the eligibility list even though his son was below these candidates on the list. The Commission upheld the removal of one of the candidate's from the list based on his untruthfulness, but then instructed the City to show why an investigation should not be opened into the Chief's participation in the hiring process. In a second case, Investigation: City of Newburyport Reserve Police Officer Appointments, the police chief's son was appointed due to having received a residency preference without any proof supporting the preference. The Commission noted that the chief did not inform the appointing authority about the conflict of interest during the hiring process, but simply delegated to subordinates the task of assessing his son's candidacy. An investigation ordered by the Commission revealed that the chief's son did not, in fact, have a residency preference, and as a result the son resigned.

In both cases, the Commission noted that changes to the hiring practice was needed for the department. Perhaps equally notable, however, is that as Minoie shows, a flawed hiring practice will not save an otherwise unqualified candidate. If there are sufficient independent grounds for a candidate to be bypassed or removed from an eligibility list, the fact that cronyism was also involved will not save the candidate.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

CORI/BOP/CJIS Hit Alone Cannot Justify A Bypass

Certain things can automatically justify a bypass, such as a felony conviction for example. You can now strike “an arrest” from that list. Following a clear trend over the past two years, the Commission held in Gore v. DOC, G1-13-272, that a report of an arrest on a BOP (Board of Parole) report, a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Inquiry) check, or a CJIS (Criminal Justice Information System) check cannot automatically disqualify a candidate from the appointment process. Instead, appointing authorities are required to conduct a “reasonably thorough review” of the facts and circumstances of the arrest. 

In Gore, the appellant had been arrested for carrying a firearm without a license. The charge was later dismissed. The arrest was uncovered during the DOC’s background investigation on a CJIS report and Gore was removed from the process and subsequently bypassed. The Commission, pointing to the DOC’s failure to conduct a review of what happened or even notify Mr. Gore about the report, granted the appeal and placed Mr. Gore at the top of the list until he is appointed or bypassed. 

While this is good news for individuals bringing appeals, it should not be over-read. This does not mean that an arrest cannot justify a bypass. It can, even if it doesn’t lead to a conviction. What an arrest cannot do is allow an appointing authority to automatically disqualify a candidate without looking into the matter further.