By Rosemary K. Otzman
A proposal to change the Belleville City Charter to eliminate the Civil Service Commission will be on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot, following a unanimous vote by the Belleville City Council on Monday.
Councilman Tom Fielder made the motion and Councilwoman Kim Tindall seconded to adopt a resolution putting the question on the ballot to delete Chapter XVI of the Belleville City Charter entitled Civil Service.
The City Charter was approved by the voters in 1982.
The ballot language, if approved by the Attorney General and Governor for inclusion on the Nov. 4 ballot would read:
[There are currently three (3) positions that are not covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements that are covered by the provisions of the Civil Service system, those being, Police Chief, Director of Public Works/Building Official, and City Clerk.] Shall Chapter XVI, entitled “Civil Service,” of the Belleville City Charter be repealed to eliminate a system of Civil Service in the City of Belleville? Yes [ ] No [ ] The resolution said “… the City Council has determined that due to the low number of employees that are not covered by Collective Bargaining Agreement and the cost of maintaining a Civil Service system, it would be in the best interest of the City to eliminate the Civil Service Commission.”
City Clerk/Treasurer Lisa Long is the only person under Civil Service now, since Director of Public Works/Building Official Keith Boc and Police Chief Gene Taylor have retired.
Mayor Kerreen Conley said if Civil Service is eliminated, Long will be made an at-will employee, as is City Manager Diana Kollmeyer.
The resolution supporting elimination of Civil Service said it would be in the best interests of the city due to the low number of employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements and the cost of maintaining a Civil Service system.
Under the charter there are three members of the Civil Service Commission that are appointed by the mayor for staggered terms of six-years each.
But, Mayor Conley said all the seats are vacant.
At the last CSC meeting in February, to consider Keith Boc’s appeal on his health insurance just before he retired, all three members of the CSC were present: Chairman Michael Loria, Roy Acho, and Don Bluhm. The commission voted unanimously in favor of Boc because the city hadn’t changed the written wording in documents.
Immediately after that vote, an upset Loria went back into the city manager chambers to talk with city officials who were angry over the vote.
The city council has never considered the CSC recommendation on Boc in an open meeting.
Since then, Police Chief Taylor also asked for an appeal on his health care costs, but was denied an appeal by the city manager.
Loria has resigned from the CSC. His term was to expire May 31, 2018 when Mayor Conley reappointed him in December 2012.
Acho resigned, as well, saying he was working so hard to reopen his store in Sumpter that he couldn’t commit to the CSC any more. Acho’s term was to expire May 31, 2016. He was appointed by Mayor Richard Smith in September 2010.
Bluhm’s term expired May 31 and he was not reappointed.
In another CSC vs. city clash on Dec. 11, 2012 the CSC voted unanimously to reinstate Taylor as chief of police after City Manager Kollmeyer had demoted him to corporal for six months.
At Monday’s meeting, Councilman Fielder said he doesn’t want people to think this charter change is a “stealth project” and when it gets closer to the election they should have a meeting with discussion so people in favor and opposed to the change can speak.
“The attitude shouldn’t be that the council is changing the charter,” Fielder said.
By Rosemary K. Otzman