The Civil Service Commission voted 2-1 at last Thursday night’s meeting to approve Chief Selvain McQueen’s changes to the promotion process and to lateral hiring. Tied together in one vote, the commission’s decision cemented McQueen’s stance that he “is not promoting anyone.”
Commissioner Thomas Moore and Glenn Jefferson voted to approve with Commissioner Al Hatcher opposing.
The twin controversies of promotions and lateral hiring have gone hand in hand at the department and have been a highly debated issue for months.
Officers within the Columbus Police Department began the promotions process back in February, 2011 and were repeatedly told that promotions would be happening. However, nearly a year later, not a single officer at the CPD has been promoted.
After former chief of police Joe St. John’s firing in July, McQueen was selected as the interim chief and the promotions process put on hold.
In recent months, McQueen had been quoted as saying that he would in fact begin promoting officers and they would be selected from the list of 31 eligible officers. In last week’s Packet however, the chief said, “I am not promoting anyone. In order to promote people, I would have to abide by rules that I don’t agree with.”
The rules that McQueen was referring to were the guidelines that the chief had to abide by. According to McQueen, if an officer had been suspended for 60 days but was at the top of the promotions list, under civil service guidelines, he or she would still have to be promoted.
At Thursday night’s civil service meeting, the commissioners voted to amend that rule. In addition, they also approved a change that states that an officer must score a 70 or above on the written test in order to be eligible for promotions.
As far as the topic of lateral hiring is concerned, the chief told commissioners that the CPD must first try to hire from within before they bring in anyone from another department.
The city council initially approved the issues of promotions and lateral hiring in January. The joint issues then went before the civil service commission. Officers gathered at the meeting to voice their outrage over the unwelcome possibility of lateral hiring and delaying promotions. Seemingly shocked at the officer’s outrage, the commissioners decided to table the issue and send it back to the city council. The city council approved the issues again at last Tuesday’s meeting when they voted to approve lateral hiring and changes to the promotions process 3-3 with the mayor breaking the tie.
Before the commissioners voted, Commissioner Hatcher asked McQueen what exactly the city council approved. McQueen responded by asking the commissioners if they wanted to go into executive session. After some debate about whether going into executive session on a policy matter was legal, Commissioner Moore told the gathered crowd “Life is hard.” and the group was banished outside.
[When McQueen asked the commissioners if they wanted to go into executive session, WCBI News Director Steve Rogers was sitting behind me and mumbled, “They can’t do that. They can’t go into executive session for a policy issue.” I immediately asked the commissioners “Are you allowed to go into executive session over a policy issue?” The room fell silent as the commissioners looked at each other, as if not quite sure how to respond. Commissioner Moore spoke up, informing me that yes, they could go into executive session. I again asked “Even though it is a policy issue and not a personnel issue?” Moore replied that he believed this was in fact a personnel issue. Rogers then asked the commission why the city attorney, Jeff Turnage, was not present and after much discussion, the commission’s secretary, Loria Porter asked if city human resource director Pat Mitchell should be in the room since she was present at the city council meeting. While Mitchell was being brought into the room, myself, Rogers and Commissioner Moore engaged in a heated conversation of whether the issue of promotions and lateral hiring was a personnel or policy issue. Speaking to Moore, I said, “Yes, this is a personnel issue but it falls under the umbrella of policy.” Rogers again asked why Turnage was not present and questioned if the commissioners could legally kick us out of the meeting when Moore responded “Well, life is hard.” To that Rogers responded “Life is hard? I respect your position sir, but life is hard?” Dispatch contributor Jeff Clark then spoke, asking other members of the media “What are they going to do if we don’t leave? Have us arrested?” As we gathered our belongings to exit, both Rogers and I immediately called Jeff Turnage. After speaking with Rogers, Turnage hurriedly came down to city hall. Members of the media and gathered officers were allowed back into the meeting after a 30 minute wait outside. SF]
Once the crowd was allowed back inside, the commissioners quickly went to a vote on the issues at hand. Before the vote Commissioner Moore said he “trusts the chief to make the right decision on this—he’s the man responsible.”
The changes are effective immediately.