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MUNICIPAL CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION
REPORT FOR THE YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 31, 1922
To the Honorable the State Civil Service Commission, Albany, New York.
GENTLEMEN–We have the honor to submit herewith the report of the Municipal Civil Service Commission for the year 1922.
The personnel of the Commission was changed at opening of the year by appointment of Ferdinand Q. Morton, former Assistant District Attorney of New York County, in place of Dr. Thomas R. Killilea. In the recent election Charles I. Stengle, Secretary of the Commission, was elected to the House of Representatives. Mr. Stengle resigned as Secretary on December 31st and Martin A. Healy was appointed to fill the vacancy.
Throughout the year the Commission, with a single exception, has been virtually. free from court action against administrative rulings, and from complaints, and protests by employees of unfair discrimination by departmental officials. The only action brought to over-rule a decision of the Commission was an eleventh-hour effort by Court Attendants to prevent an open competitive examination for Court Clerk. They contended that they were in line for promotion to the position and that the examination should be confined to them. Our decision was upheld by the Court. The decision in part said:
“This Court does not find that the Court Attendants have any absolute right to an examination for promotion only. As long as the Court Attendants can take the open examination they should, with the skill which they profess to have, be able to excel the others by reason of their previous experience in the courts.”
Our freedom from contention, legal, or otherwise, is due in large measure to the frank and open conferences between the Commission, bureau chiefs, and employees in the early part of this administration. The mutual trust and the spirit of cooperation borne of those meetings have done much not alone to simplify our work, but to improve and hearten the morale of the service. No matter on what ground any complaint rested it was thrashed out thoroughly at these conferences. Employees were encouraged to lay bare the things which from their view-point were unfair or hindered their advancement. If their criticisms were reasonable our rules were amended to meet the circumstances, restrictions were removed, and everything done to encourage and stimulate employees in all branches of the service. Viewed either from a practical or an ethical standpoint, and in their far-reaching influence, those conferences, we believe, take rank among the most valuable and constructive measures advanced by this adıninistration.
Freed from what hitherto was a vexatious and time-consuming taskinvestigation and adjustment of group or individual grievances—we have studied to correct and improve the organization and business methods of our own department. First in importance was the vesting in the Chief Examiner of full and complete control over the Physical and Medical Bureau. Hitherto he had but nominal control over this division. The change was prompted by the disclosure, dwelt upon in our last annual report, that a saloon-keeper had collected large sums of money from eighteen candidates in the last examination for promotion to Police Sergeant on the promise that he could have them placed high up on the eligible list. For a time the saloon-keeper escaped to ports unknown. Several months ago he returned to the city and was arrested. This Commission, with the aid of an Assistant District Attorney, at once conducted a rigid investigation of the alleged plot, subpoened the accused, its former employee and other witnesses. The testimony obtained was turned over to the District Attorney for further action.
The transfer of authority in the Physical Bureau suggested radical changes in the conduct and keeping of records pertaining to all physical and 'medical examinations. The functions of the bureau, particularly in police and fire examinations, are of the greatest importance for they have a vital bearing upon the integrity of the branches of the service mentioned. Where thousands of men are put to a test in one examination there are bound to be appeals for reconsideration from a large percentage of the men rejected. These demand careful and impartial review. To insure this as far as is possible all appeals for a remedical examination, after being passed upon by the medical examiner in charge, must be reviewed by the Chief Examiner and then referred by him to the Commission for final action. At close of each day all medical records now are placed in a safe with the examination papers and not, as heretofore, left in the bureau's filing cabinet.
Through a specially appointed committee, consisting of the Assistant Secretary and Chiefs of certain bureaus, the Commission is pursuing a comprehensive plan to simplify, standardize and bring up to date all forms, application blanks, letter-heads and similar material coming under the general head of stationery supplies. Questions and explanations contained in Experience and Application blanks called for revision and clarification in harmony with the new codification of our Rules and Regulations. The elimination of superfluous matter, together with a general uniformity in style and size, will bring about considerable economies. One of the changes made is the abolition of the requirement on Application blanks calling for three vouchers. Frequently this put a candidate to a great deal of unnecessary labor and expense without having any particular value in an appraisal of
an applicant's worth and efficiency. It is not until after an eligible list is established that the Bureau of Investigation looks up the record and experience of those who made the list. This investigation is based upon sworn statements made by a candidate as to his previous training and other essential data. The vouchers of neighbors and friends, however commendable in their social aspects, were worthless for the purpose of gauging a man's competency for a given position. The character' references from previous employers submitted by candidates are used by the investigators in conjunction with the statements made in the “Experience” paper.
An important improvement is the plan of handling applications under Rule XII, Paragraph 3, affecting temporary appointments. Under the rule the Commission has power, should the submitted qualifications of the candidate proposed for temporary appointment be unsatisfactory, to order a noncompetitive examination. The revision provides that persons so nominated shall be notified by “Result Card” whether passed or failed on "Experience” or “Duties” paper as the case may be. Heretofore the matter first was submitted to the Commission with a report from the Chief Examiner. This entailed needless delay and made unnecessary work for the administrative branch.
Only three appointments were made in 1922 under Rule XII, Paragraph 5.
Of the 106 open-competitive examinations held the more important and unusual were Deputy Superintendent of School Buildings, with salary of $6,500; Superintendent of Construction; Executive Secretary to Advisory Committee on Vocational and Industrial Training ; Medical Examiner, Children's Court; Dental Hygienist; Police Surgeon; Supervisor and Assistant Supervisors of Markets. Some doubt was expressed in certain quarters as to our right and authority to hold examinations for the last two named positions. The law creating the positions provided that the employees in said positions “shall receive such compensation as shall be within the appropriation made therefor by the appropriating body of the city.” This the Board of Estimate omitted to do and the Commissioner of Markets used this fact as an argument against filling the positions through competitive examination. We based our authority upon Section 260a of Chapter 633, Laws of 1922, which, after enumerating the positions to be filled by the Commissioner of Markets, decreed in the following specific terms that appointees:
“Shall be appointed from lists to be furnished by the Municipal Civil Service Commission after competitive examinations for such positions pursuant to the Civil Service Law. Such Commission shall provide for and hold such examinations forewith.”
The Corporation Counsel in an opinion upheld our authority. We at once proceeded with the examinations which included an Experience Paper; Written test and an oral examination. Eligible lists resulting therefrom will be established in the near future.