What follows is a guest blog by Joanne Brown.
Is this the end of Wisconsin’s civil service?
Yet another surprise tucked away into the Walker budget bill could mean the end of Wisconsin’s civil service system as we know it.
The budget calls for the Office of State Employee Relations to be moved into the Department of Administration; currently, OSER is attached administratively to DOA.
Ordinarily, such a move might not cause concern, but one portion of the proposal could change everything
With the move of the functions of OSER into the Department of Administration, OSER would become the Division of Personnel Management, headed by an Administrator. The budget bill also calls specifically for the establishment of the Bureau of Merit Recruitment and Selection within the Division of Personnel Management; the Bureau would take on the functions of what is now the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection in OSER.
So far, so good.
But the budget bill changes the selection process for the Director of the Bureau. As described by the Legislative Reference Bureau:
Under current law, the administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection must be nominated by the Governor, and with the advice and consent of the Senate appointed for a five-year term, under the unclassified service from a register of at least five names certified to the Governor by the Director of OSER. The Director of OSER must prepare and conduct an examination for the position of administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection according to the requirements for classified positions. The administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection may be re-nominated by the Governor, and with the advice and consent of the Senate reappointed.
Under the bill, the director of the Bureau of Merit Recruitment and Selection under DOA would serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of DOA. The bill would delete the current process for selecting and filling the position of administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection.
So the Secretary of the DOA could pick anyone to be head of the Bureau, without regard for that person’s ability to carry out the functions of maintaining an excellent civil service system. This changes Wisconsin law that has been in effect at least since 1978 (See Chapter 196, Laws of 1977, published February 15, 1978).
The administrator of this division in OSER has significant power over the Wisconsin’s civil service system under the statutes (generally sec. 230.05, Wis. Stats.).
- The administrator may delegate functions to “appointing authorities,” if he or she determines they have the capability of performing such functions, and may also withdraw delegated functions if the agency is not performing “within prescribed standards.” Sec. 230.05(2)(a).
- The administrator may utilize the services of technical or specialized personnel, from anywhere, to assist in implementing and maintaining a sound merit recruitment and selection program. Sec. 230.05(3).
- The administrator may issue enforceable orders on all matters relating to the administration, enforcement and effect of the provisions of this subchapter for which responsibility is specifically charged to the administrator and the rules prescribed thereunder. Sec. 230.05(4)
- The administrator promulgates the rules governing the civil service system. Sec. 230.05(5) Wis. Stats.
- The administrator shall use techniques and procedures designed to certify eligible applicants to any vacant permanent position within 45 days. Sec. 230.05(7)
- The administrator may in certain cases waive competitive examination for appointments. 230.15
- The administrator has authority over the content of examinations and applications. 230.16
- The administrator establishes the rules under which applicants may be refused examination and eligible applicants may be refused employment. 230.17
- The administrator designates the employment classifications in critically short supply and critical positions in corrections requiring “expeditious hiring.” 230.21
- The administrator provides the policies and standards for recruitment, examination, probation, employment register control, certification, transfer, promotion and reemployment in the career executive program. 230.24
- The administrator certifies names to appointing authorities for hiring from existing or new registers. 230.25
- The administrator establishes rules for limited term employment. 230.26
- The administrator may adjust probationary periods under certain conditions. 230.28
- The administrator must authorize transfers. 230.29
- The administrator administers the restrictions on political activities and running for political office. 230.40
What is the reason for the change in the method of appointment? One could assume that Scott Walker just wanted one more comfortable spot for a crony, but the powers of this position make me think that he is aiming for far more–the gradual erosion of Wisconsin’s civil service.