Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, August 17, 2015

Is Council dealing from the bottom of the deck?

A card sharp prepares to deal a card known to the dealer,
but unknown to the audience, from the bottom of the deck.

When the Plainfield City Council has hiccups over business it has previously considered, one has to wonder just what is going on.

Last Monday's agenda-setting session had two such items: a proposal for the long-discussed and long-planned-for South Avenue redevelopment project, and a salary ordinance that would pave the way for a telecommunications employee training program.

What happened to lead the Council to balk at moving these items forward? We may never know for sure, but folks can be forgiven for the suspicion that some members of Council are dealing from the bottom of the deck.

Dealing from the bottom of the deck is a card sharp's way of controlling the deck and misleading spectators by dealing a known card from the bottom of the deck by sleight of hand, making it appear as if it was drawn at random from the top of the deck.

You can view a tutorial on all types of bottom dealing by magician Xavier Perret on YouTube here.
Council President Rivers alluded to a 'conflict' during the discussion of the salary ordinance regarding the telecommunications trainees (MC 2015-22), but she did not explicitly state the nature of the conflict. Nor did Councilor Taylor in her lengthy remarks.

What they did do, both of them, was to insinuate that something untoward was taking place. Taylor, in particular referred over and over to "inequities", "glaring inequities" and the "perception of inequities'.

For those not in the loop, it may have seemed mystifying. But for those who understand the nature of the conflict -- that Council President Rivers has a close family member who failed to "make the cut" on a police aide Civil Service exam -- the question became: What is the Council up to?

Bear in mind a few facts about Civil Service --

  • It is designed to insure at least  little bit of fairness in how employees are hired;

  • Civil Service exams are not all that difficult -- they are meant to rank test-takers, not exclude them;

  • The rule that a hiring decision is to be made from the top three scorers has long been agreed upon as fair;

  • As the tests are administered by the NJ Civil Service Commission, they are open to residents across the state -- no mystery there.

  • Unmentioned by Rivers and Taylor is the fact that veterans get an automatic boost in their standings -- is that an "inequity"?

  • There are even NJ Civil Service test prep websites (see here, for example) to coach and help.
So, what is the nature of the "inequities" Taylor and Rivers complained about?

Were any of the Civil Services rules and procedures violated? If so, please specify which ones.

Maybe we need to look at this problem from the other side. Should the City perhaps be more careful of recruiting people who actually have a chance of scoring high on the Civil Service exam?

But perhaps that would violate FEFFAF*.

Seems to me that Civil Service is there to put the teeniest brake on gaming the system.

The question to Councilors Rivers and Taylor is: What do you propose instead?

Opting out of the Civil Service system? A lot of employees would view that as a direct threat to their job security. Does the Council really want to go there?

Disregarding the Civil Service requirement to pick one of the top three and go ahead and appoint Councilor Rivers' family member permanently? And risk and lawsuit and the possibility of a settlement out of the public purse -- plus legal expenses?

Meanwhile, the heart of the matter is that Public Safety Director Carl Riley is trying his damnedest to recruit some civilian workers to be able to put more cops on the street (as opposed to filling these desk assignments that could be handled by civilians).

The Council is being no help to getting that done. Why not spend a little time brainstorming some ways to recruit capable bilingual civilian candidates?

And stop dealing from the bottom of the deck.

City Council meets tonight, 8 PM at the Council Chambers /Courthouse, Watchung Avenue at East 4th Street.

*FEFFAF: Full Employment For Family And Friends, an old New Jersey public employment custom.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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