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REPORTS AS TO ADMINISTRATION OF THE CIVIL SERVICE
LAW AND RULES IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK
Report of Commissioners Milliken and Brown
To the Governor of the State of New York:
A regulation of the State Civil Service Commission provides that that body shall make an occasional official visitation of each city in the state for the purpose of inquiring into the method of the administration of the Civil Service Law in such city and of ascer. taining whether the municipal commissioners and other city officials faithfully discharge their duties in respect to compliance with said law. In accordance with that regulation and for the purpose of investigating as to certain abuses alleged by the Civil Service Reform Association and by others to exist in the administration of the Civil Service Law in the city of New York, this Commission visited that city on the 18th of May, and instituted such an inquiry. It first directed its attention to the matters specifically referred to in the presentment of the Reform Association under date of April 6, 1905. An open session for the examination of witnesses in regard to these matters was continued through the 18th and 19th of May and was then adjourned to and concluded on the 22d of June. In the interim, the secretary and chief examiner of the State Commission, pursuant to instruc: tions, and in the exercise of a privilege conferred by section 10 of the Civil Service Law, made an examination of the records of the Municipal Commission along the lines noted, but examined no witnesses.
The presentment of the Civil Service Reform Association called the attention of the State Commission to certain specific instances of alleged abuses in the administration of the Civil Service Law under the Municipal Commission and its secretary, and to matters in which it was charged that heads of departments are responsible with the Commission for violation or evasion of the law and
In examination of witnesses and records, the State Commission has covered the matters set forth in the presentment, except that which called attention to the increased expenses of the Municipal Commission, and that which referred to the alleged exploitation of positions in the exempt class in the city service to subserve political purposes. The State Commission has not been able, in the time at its disposal, to make the extended compilation of data essential to an intelligent comparison of the cost to the city of the civil service administration under the present and former Commissions. The cost rose from $108,457.07, under the Ogden Com. mission, in 1903, to $114,781.81 under the McCooey and Coler Commissions in 1904. The appropriation for the present year, under the Baker Commission, is $115,000.00, the same as last year, though $10,000.00 has been added to the salaries of the commissioners. Whether this has resulted in any loss in efficiency in the work of examination and administration, or whether the earlier increase in appropriations was out of proportion to the growth of the city, so that the expenses could be cut in other directions without harm to the service, the State Commission does not, at present, feel able to judge. Neither has the State Commission yet had opportunity to study the conduct of the examinations, their practicality and the justice and impartiality of the ratings.
As to the alleged abuse in the matter of appointments to positions in the exempt class, that is an offense to be established by inference rather than by oral or documentary evidence. Attacks of whatever nature upon the merit system of appointment and promotion to public office presuppose a political animus. Violations of the constitutional rule requiring that such appointments and promotions shall be made through competitive exami. nations open to all point to some underlying political consideration. Evasions of the Civil Service Law and rules irresistibly argue political interference. There are 696 positions in the municipal service which are classified as exempt from competitive exam. ination, not a great number when compared with the total of 40,000 persons on the pay roll of the city in the classified and labor service, but it goes without the saying that the exempt class affords, in the city service, as it undoubtedly does in the state and county service, the favorite, because the safest, ground for the commission of this sort of offense. The positions classified as exempt are as clearly within the prohibition of the law as to the consideration of political opinions or affiliations as are those in the competitive class, but in the case of the former the appointing officer, as was pointed out in the last annual report of the State Commission, becomes the sole judge of the qualifications of the person selected, and upon his conscientious regard for the constitution and the law is practically the only dependence for protection against consideration of improper influences.
CHARGES AGAINST SECRETARY BERLINGER. The charges preferred by the Reform Association against the secretary of the Municipal Civil Service Commission under date of November 22, 1904, should have been made the occcasion of a searching investigation by the last mentioned body. It is true that the irregularities charged occurred under a previous municipal commission, but they were of serious consequences as bearing upon Mr. Berlinger's fitness for the office. From the testi
mony adduced at the hearing it appeared that the irregularities in the matter of admitting persons to examination and reexamination, and in approving transfers in violation of the rules, were based, in a measure, on the custom of years or on instructions received from a superior officer, and it did not appear that the favored parties profited by the secretary's questionable exercise of authority. No public officer, however, can excuse himself for flat disobedience of an unambiguous rule by pleading the instructions of some other person who was also bound to obey that rule. In the case of Richard J. Cunningham, Mr. Berlinger, after admitting the candidate to the mental examination irregularly but, the State Comunission thinks, justifiably (on the supposition that an application had been actually filed and lost), and to a physical examination at which he was rejected, gave him a second physical examination without any authority from the Commission, and in absolute violation of Rule VII, paragraph 11, providing that “no candidate shall be granted a reexamination, either written or physical, unless it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Commission that his failure * * * was due to an official errror or mistake for which the Commission is responsible.” The only pretext for this was the candidate's fail. ure to take eye glasses to the examination, something which was in no sense an error of the Commission. Mr. Cunningham also testified that the secretary asked his examination number, and Mr. Berlinger did not deny this under oath when he had the opportunity, though he had said that it was not true, in his letter to the Municipal Commission of December 30, 1904. This charge is so serious, and goes so to the root of the honest administration of the merit system, that the Municipal Commission should not have been content without a searching investigation. It appears that