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given an absolute appointment; and if his services are not satisfactory, he is discharged from the service. During the last fourteen years, since the organization of the Commission, less than 1 per cent a year of those appointed to the departmental service through the certifications of the Commission have failed to receive absolute appointment, while last year in the railway mail service, where physical qualifications are prerequisite to examination, only 5 out of 655 persons selected for appointment failed to receive absolute appointment. These results are a sufficient answer to charges, made without investigation, that the examinations of the Commission do not test the fitness of applicants for admission to the service. In certain examinations, where the experi. ence of applicants is of practical value in determining their relative qualifications, the subject of experience is graded and given weight as a part of the examination.
It was predicted by those who advocated the enactment of the civilservice law that the temptation to make unjust removals would gradually disappear with the withdrawal of the power to control appointments to positions thus made vacant. This prediction has been largely fulfilled. The civil-service act did not intend that incompetent persons should be retained in office. The authority of removal and its exercise for proper reasons are necessary for the discipline and the efficiency of the public service. The power of removal is not affected by the law or the rules further than that they provide that removals shall not be made for political or religious reasons. The results under the present system are in every respect more satisfactory than under the old sys. tem. There are restrictions in the rules in regard to the reinstatement of persons who have been disinissed for delinquencies or misconduct, while under the old system ineficient employees and persons who should have been discharged for delinquencies or misconduct were not only kept in office without regard to their shortcomings, but when some of them were dismissed for proper reasons they often had sufficient political or other influence to get back into the service. Such reinstatements can not now be made under the civil-service rules.
From information in the possession of the Commission it is shown that during the last four years the removals from competitive positions in the classified departmental service at Washington have been less than 2 per cent a year for all causes, not including such removals as resulted from necessary reductions in the force. In the unclassified and excepted service at Washington the removals are believed to have aggregated in the four years at least 50 per cent. From these figures the conclusion must be drawn that either the persons brought in through examinations are far more efficient than the others, or the removals from the unclassified positions have been made for other causes thau the good of the service.
The Postmaster-General, in his report for 1896, states that the total number of changes in the carrier force of 12,834 was only 3.7 per cent, as against 4.9 per cent for 1895 and 6.3 per cent for 1894. This is an excellent showing, and is evidence of the strong desire of the PostOffice Department to make removals only when they should be made for the good of the service. In this connection the Postmaster-General makes the following statement in his report for 1896:
The rule is still uniformly observed of separating no carrier from the service, except in case of arrest or conviction for criminal offenses, without giving him a copy of the charges against him and affording him full opportunity to make answer and defense to the same. As a result the number of removals for the year has fallen to 268, which is less by 117 than for the previous year.
The Baltimore post-office furnishes a remarkable instance of the improvement that has been made in the enforcement of the civil-seryice law and rules with regard to removals. During the two Adminis. trations, from 1885 to 1889, and from 1889 to 1893, there was in each instance nearly a clean sweep of the office, and the Commission found upon investigation that the large majority of the removals during both Administrations were for political reasons. During the nearly three years of the term of the present postmaster it is gratifying to state that the number of removals amounted to less than 6 per cent of the total force of the Baltimore post office of about 700 employees. Of 38 removals made in the past three years only 5 were in the classified service. An investigation at the New York custom-house showed that during the five years preceding the classification of that office, under successive collectors belonging to the same party, there were 1,678 removals. For the year ended June 30, 1896, however, there were only 31 separations from the force at the New York custom-house. No better evidence than these figures could be furnished to show that the practice of making removals in the classified service for political reasons is fast disappearing
REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF EXCEPTED PLACES.
By the revision of the civil-service rules practically all of the excepted positions were transferred to the competitive list. The Commission believes that the greatest benefit will result to the public service by this action, which transferred to the competitive list many important positions, including those of chiefs of division. For several years in successive reports the Commission has urged the need of taking the bulk of those places out of the class excepted from examination. lu its report for 1891 the Commission said:
The positions of chiefs of division should in most cases be filled by promotion from the ranks below. The same rule should apply to some of the places now filled by noncompetitive examination or without examination.
The change recommended would be greatly for the benefit of the service, and it would shut another one of the back doors by which it is even yet occasionally entered.
In its report for 1893 the Commission remarked on this same subject: The number of excepted places in the Departments at Washington should be greatly reduced. Very serious harm, in our judgment, results from allowing the chiefs of division to be excepted from examination, and we think they should be put under the general rule and appointed by promotion from within the service. It is a disadvantage to the public service to have so many people allowed to occupy positions of trust and of high remuneration which are excepted from examination.
And again in 1894: The more carefully the Commission has studied this question of excepted places the more thoroughly it is convinced that in the great majority of cases it is a positive detriment to the service to except them. This applies not only to the postal service, but also to the departmental service at Washington, where the chiefs of division and many other officers are excepted, as the Commission firmly believes, to the detriment of the public service.
One of the principal reasons which were urged against including the important excepted positions in the competitive list was that persons with peculiar qualifications were required to fill them, and that such persons could not be secured by examination. It was a noteworthy fact, however, that the persons occupying such positions, notwithstanding their alleged " peculiar qualifications,” were frequently turned out immediately after the removal of the officers who were responsible for their appointment. The few persons who were retained in excepted positions after changes in Administration were usually those who had been promoted from the ranks and who were thoroughly familiar with their duties.
It would have been an immense gain to the public service, and would have hastened the general adoption of the merit system, if chiefs of division had been included in the nonexcepted list when the civil-seryice law was put into operation. Before that law was passed it was the practice to promote subordinate employees to the position of chief, while vacancies in the subordinate places were filled by persons who had influence strong enough to secure them. After the law was passed and chiefs of division were placed in a class excepted from examination, matters were just reversed. The subordinate employees were selected on account of their fitness as tested in competitive examinations, while the chiefs became the football of politics, as those who were acherents of one political party had to give way to the adherents of the other party upon each change of Administration.
It is anomalous that since the enactment of the civil-service law subordinate employees have been selected on account of their fitness, while chiefs of division, who are responsible for the proper performance of the duties of those employees, have often been appointed without regard to their qualifications. Naturally the chiefs, who had short terms of service, acquired little knowledge of their own duties, and knew practically nothing about the work of their subordinates, who were supposed to carry out their instructions in regard to the manner in which the work should be done.
As an illustration of the extravagance which resulted from this method of appointing chiefs of divisions, it may be stated that the instructions of a chief in one bureau who was not familiar with the duties of his position resulted in the assignment of a large number of clerks for several months to work which was absolutely worthless after it had been done, at a cost of over $100,000. Other cases, perhaps not so flagrant as this, could have been found upon investigation in various bureaus. By the promotion of trained subordinates to the positions of chief the work is certain to be carried on in a more intelligent, efficient, and economical manner.
INVESTIGATIONS, During the year covered by this report the Commission has been called upon to make a number of investigations into charges of political assessments, political or religious discrimination, illegal appointments and removals, and alleged fraud or unfairness in connection with examinations and appointments. Briefs showing charges made and the action taken in the more important cases investigated by the Commission during the last four years will be found in the appendix to the report.
Investigations into charges of political assessments were made at a number of offices. A post office clerk at Des Moines, Iowa, was fined as a result of the investigation of that office in January, 1895. The investigation at Louisville, Ky., in January, 1895, resulted in the indictment of two Federal employees, and in May and June, 1896, upon an investigation at Bridgeton, N. J., the postmaster was removed from the service. The engineer at the post-office building in Denver, Colo., was removed after an investigation in November, 1896, and two deputy col. lectors and a clerk in the custom - louse at Port Huron, Mich., were removed after an investigation in June, 1896. The investigation of the internal-revenue office at Cincinnati, Ohio, September, 1896, resulted in the removal of the collector and one of his deputies. It is proper to state in connection with these investigations where removals were made for violating the civil-service act, that the Treasury and Post-Office Departments fully cooperated with the Commission. Charges of making political assessments were also made in a number of other cases, but upon investigation by the Commission it was found that there had been no technical violations of the law. The fact that the Commission thoroughly published the law on the subject of political assessments, and warned employees that they could not be forced to make contributions to political funds, had a most salutary effect.
An investigation at the Columbus, Ohio, post-office in November, 1895, developed some interesting facts in the matter of political assessments. It was found that it had been for years the practice of many employees, without regard to their party affiliations, to contribute to the campaign fund of whatever party was in power. The report of the investigation of this office is still under consideration by the Commission.
During the period covered by this report several illegal appointments have been discovered through the Commission's investigations. At some offices the Commission secured the removal of persons illegally appointed, and at other offices the Commission was successful in securing the reinstatement of persons illegally removed. In a number of other cases the Commission recommended the reinstatement of those who it found were removed for political reasons, but it does not appear that the Commission's recommendations have as yet been acted upon in all those cases.
Many other cases of alleged violations of the civil-service act have been investigated by the Commission, and briefs of the most important of those cases may be found in the appendix to the report. Several of them pertain to charges of fraud or unfairness in connection with examinations, In some instances the charges were substantiated and the papers
of the competitors were canceled, while in other cases it was found that the difficulty was on account of the inexperience or carelessness of local examiners. In all cases where there was the slightest evidence of fraud or unfairness the Commission required the reexamination of the competitors. The most serious case was at Erie, Pa., where it was found that the secretary of the postal board had opened the package containing the examination papers and furnished the questions to one of the competitors, an employee of the office, in advance of the examination. Both of them were removed from the service and are now held for trial. Another instance of delinquency on the part of a secretary of a local board was at the Detroit, Mich., post-office, and upon the recommendation of the Commission he was removed from the service for failure to perform his duties as secretary. At the Toledo, Ohio, postoffice it was shown that an employee had violated the civil-service act by making false representations for the purpose of injuring the pros. pects of appointment of certain other eligibles. Action in this case is still pending. At Bridgeton, N. J., the postmaster was removed for receiving political contributions and being concerned in fraudulently changing the marking of examination papers.
Section 7 of the civil-service act provides that no person shall be employed to enter or be promoted in the classified service until he has passed an examination or is shown to be specially exempt from such examination in conformity with the act. The act contemplated that promotions in, as well as appointments to the service should be made only after the relative capacity and fitness of persons have been determined. It seems, however, that while great progress has been made in extending the classified service, and thus preventing the admission of applicants not qualified for employment, practically little has been done toward devising ways and means for making all promotions upon