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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014
Politics

Civil service board girds for legislative fight


Published:

TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s Civil Service Board will consider on Tuesday spending $75,000 to lobby state legislators against a proposal that would strip the board of some of its power over county employees.

The proposal pits the civil service board against 21 elected and appointed agencies, from the children’s board to the county commission.

Agency officials say the civil service board is a relic of a by-gone era that hinders their ability to manage operations such as hiring and firing.

“I don’t want them to tell me who’s qualified to work for my agency,” Tax Collector Doug Belden said Friday. “We know who’s qualified.”

Belden is leading the charge against the civil service board, along with County Administrator Mike Merrill and Pat Frank, clerk of the circuit court.

Civil service board Chairman Scott Strepina has invited all three to attend Tuesday’s meeting to discuss their issues with the board. So far, none plan to attend.

“I think my view’s very clear,” Frank said Friday. “This isn’t the first time he’s heard my concerns.”

Civil service board Director Dane Petersen said his agency saves taxpayers money by centralizing the kind of human resources activities that each of its 21 clients would have to do themselves.

“There’s a lot of economy of scale that comes with us,” Petersen said.

The civil service board was created in the 1950s to regulate the hiring and firing of county employees at a time when there were few state or federal laws spelling out how to do those things. The board creates job descriptions for the county’s 9,400 employees and hears grievances when workers are disciplined.

Like Hillsborough County’s public transportation commission, the civil service board is unique in the state.

“It’s ridiculous for me to be the only person in the state that has to go through a civil service board to hire people,” Frank said.

Frank says the civil service board still has its uses — testing potential employees and hearing grievances, for example — but, in other ways, the board has become outdated as state and federal labor laws have made some of its duties redundant.

The board’s procedures position it between future employees and the agencies that want to hire them. Getting through that process can take weeks at a time when agencies need to be quicker to adapt to change, Frank said.

Frank and other county officials want state legislators to rewrite the civil service board’s mandate in a way that lets them pick and choose how they use it.

The county’s legislative delegation will meet in early December and decide whether to send those changes to the Legislature next spring.

Meantime, Petersen said, Belden, Frank and Merrill are trying to keep the lobbying scales tipped in their favor by fighting the civil service board’s plan to hire its own lobbyist.

“A lot of these arguments don’t hold water,” he said.

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7871

Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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