Anniston pushing to remove certain city employees from civil service system
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jan 31, 2014 | 6407 views |  0 comments | 106 106 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston City Hall (File photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Anniston City Hall (File photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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Anniston wants to change its system of hiring and disciplining city workers to improve government flexibility and possibly increase minority employment, city officials said Friday.

The proposed change is part of a bill soon to be introduced in the state Legislature. The change would remove about 139 city employees from Anniston's civil service system, which city officials say would let them rearrange departments quickly to make government more efficient. Also, freedom from some of the regulations and stringent hiring tests of the system would potentially allow more minorities to gain Anniston employment, city officials say.

City Manager Brian Johnson said the bill, which would exempt Anniston Police and Fire Department workers, would help him improve government operations.

"My desire is to restructure internal departments of the city to better meet city needs," Johnson said.

For example, Johnson said, he wants to dissolve three positions in the city, then repurpose them as code enforcers to better combat blight. Johnson said he currently has to go through the civil service system to approve such changes, a process that could take months, and still might not be successful.

"By changing this, it allows us to be more nimble to change and adjust in a way an elected body expects us to do," Johnson said.

The city's civil service system, established in 1953, is governed by a three-member board, which according to state law has the power to make rules and regulations governing such things as worker examinations, transfers, salaries, promotions, demotions, suspensions and firings.

Attempts to reach members of the board for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

Johnson added that removing so many worker positions from the civil service system could increase city hiring for minorities in the future, making the city’s workforce look more like its population. Anniston records show that of the 139 workers that would be covered by the bill, 98 are white, 39 are black, one is Asian and one is American Indian.

Meanwhile, according to the 2010 Census, 11,903 of Anniston residents are black while 10,327 are white.

Johnson said certain rules of the civil service system, such as requiring applicants to take stringent tests that might not be applicable to the job they are applying for, could be deterring minorities from getting city work or even trying to do so.

"I wouldn't have applied here if I had to go through all that," said Johnson, who was hired last year. "The system handcuffs the city's ability to make employment look more like the citizenry."

Mayor Vaughn Stewart agreed with Johnson that the city should employ more minorities.

"We are committed to having more minorities, females too, by the end of this term," Stewart said.

Stewart added that he also wants city employees out of the civil service system to improve government flexibility. Stewart said the civil service system was created to end political patronage. However, the city’s council-manager form of government, enacted after the introduction of civil service, eliminates the need for such a system, Stewart said.

"If we want to grow as a system, we have to be more flexible," Stewart said. "The city manager can do it, but he needs the tools to do it."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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