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Other Litigation. Attempts to break down the Civil Service classification for the benefit of individuals through appeals to the courts have been generally unsuccessful during the past year.
One of these, that of the People ex rel. John T. Kelly v. Charles F. Milliken et al., turned on the question whether the relator, who held the position of personal clerk of a Supreme Court Justice, and as such was in the exempt class, could be transferred to the position of court attendant, which is in the competitive class. The relator had attained a position on the eligible list for court attendant, but was not one of the first three, and therefore, under the rule limiting the right of transfer from the exempt to the competitive class to a person who has “ qualified in an open competitive examination and is eligible for certification and appointment from the appropriate eligible list,” could not be transferred. The order of the lower court directing a peremptory writ of mandamus in favor of the relator was unanimously reversed by the Appellate Division, Third Department, which held that the rule in question was authorized by the statute.
The Court of Appeals has affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division, Third Department, in the application of Charles A. Phillips for a writ of mandamus against the State Civil Service Commission to compel the certification of his accounts for services as physician of the Kings county jail. The lower court held that Phillips was in the unclassified service, having been appointed by the Board of Aldermen for a fixed term, and therefore, was entitled to his pay for services rendered. This decision was reversed by the Appellate Division.
In the case of Joseph Abel, who brought an action to compel the Commission to place his name on the eligible list of clerks for appointment in the office of the county clerk of Kings county, the application was denied at a special term, which decision was affirmed by the Appellate Division, and the application is now dismissed by the Court of Appeals.
Mr. Justice Crane, of the Second Judicial District, after trial of the issues raised in the Slavin case to set aside the grading of positions adopted by the New York City Commission and approved by the State Commission, has decided in favor of the municipal commission and dissolved the temporary injunction granted by Justice Aspinall of Kings county.
Following denial of his application for transfer from the competitive class to the exempt class of eight positions in the law department of Buffalo, Corporation Counsel Hammond of that city brought mandamus proceedings against the municipal commission and the mayor. The special term granted the application in respect to one position, that of private secretary, and denied that for the other seven. The Appellate Division affirmed the order, and upon the question whether the State Civil Service Commission, without whose approval no change of classification by a municipal commission is valid, must be made a party in a suit for reclassification, expressed the opinion that the State Commission was a proper party, if it was not a necessary party. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the State Commission was a necessary party, thus establishing a point of the utmost importance in litigation attacking a municipal classification. The Court of Appeals did not pass on the merits of the case.
The case of Earl H. Gallup, whom a majority of the State Civil Service Commission found had been removed from a position in the office of State Comptroller Gaus on account of his political opinions and affiliations, was sustained by the jury to whom it was submitted at special term, but upon appeal taken by the Comptroller was reversed by the Appellate Division and a new trial ordered. It is expected that the case will come up for retrial early next year.
Litigation is in progress which collaterally involves the classification of the position of street superintendent of the village of Saratoga Springs. The position was classified as competitive by the State Civil Service Commission, and as the result of the examination held by its direction an eligible list was established on which the name of Ransom Qua, a veteran of the Civil War, appeared. The sewer, water and street commissioner declined to recognize Mr. Qua's right to appointment under the veteran preference requirement of the Constitution and the law, whereupon on application of his counsel a writ of mandamus was issued to compel the commissioner to make the appointment. This case has just been argued before the Appellate Division, Third Department.
Classification Extended to Villages. Convinced that the Civil Service rules could be applied with wholesome effect to the larger villages of the State, a number of which exceed in population some of the third class cities which by express provision of statute are subject to the operation of the law and rules, the Commission made an extended inquiry as to conditions of the public service in all villages having a population of 7,000 or more. As a result, and following public hearings and consultation with the village officials as to the details of the proposed classification, the Commission on March 23d adopted a resolution formally extending the rules to the offices, places and employments in the civil service of the villages of Batavia, Canandaigua, Ossining, Peekskill, Port Chester, Saratoga Springs and White Plains. This resolution was approved by the Governor and went into effect March 31, 1910, bringing into the classified service of the State fifty positions in the exempt class, ten in the non-competitive class and 265 in the competitive class..
This application of the Civil Service rules to the village service was accomplished with the approval and co-operation of the members of of the boards of trustees and other officials in the villages affected. It has been accepted in good spirit by all concerned, and administered as it must be by the State Commission may be expected to show results that will compare favorably with those attained under the local commission system in the smaller cities.
The announcement of this movement to secure greater efficiency in the village service and relieve it from danger of manipulation by political and corporation interests, elicited favorable comment throughout the State. In one instance, that of the village of Seneca Falls, it brought a request for further and similar action by the Commission. Upon the petition of a number of the members of the board of trustees of that village and other representative citizens, the Commission took under consideration the proposition to bring its service within the operation of the rules. After preliminary inquiry by the Commission, followed by a public hearing, it was deemed to be unwise to make an exceptional inclusion of a single village which in population and organization did not fall within the class to which the rules had been extended.
The Commission has also considered a request that the classification be extended to cover the police force in the nineteen villages of Westchester county not already included. After due inquiry the request was denied as impracticable. The police force in some of the villages numbers only four or six members, and its inclusion in the competitive class would probably have little effect either in protecting efficient men now in office from removal or in assuring efficiency in new appointees. Experience has shown that where a service is so small and salaries so inadequate, there is little or no competition while the labor that would devolve upon the State Commission in holding separate examinations and establishing separate eligible lists for each of these villages would be considerable. Only through legislation organizing the police of the different villages as one force and providing that appointments might be made from one list, could the proposition be made practicable.
Board of Education Employees. The State Civil Service Commission was faced early in the year with the possible necessity of assuming supervision under the Civil Service Law, of the administrative employees of the several boards of education throughout the State. This extension of authority was not sought by the Commission. An inquiry from parties interested in the schools of New York city, referred to the AttorneyGeneral, elicited an opinion from that official to the effect that such employees, in the case of New York city particularly, were in the service of a State department and were, therefore, subject to the supervision of the State Civil Service Commission rather than that of a municipal civil service commission. The transfer of authority threatened to throw into the hands of the State Commission the duty of classifying, examining and certifying the payrolls of several thousands additional public servants and made imperative the securing from the Legislature of an appropriation to cover the cost of the large prospective increase of the Commission's work. This appropriation was granted, but the proposed transfer, at first unopposed by the municipal authorities, was blocked by an opinion by the Corporation Counsel of the city of New York contravening that of the State Commission's legal adviser, the Attorney-General, and determination of the question of authority now rests upon
the result of a friendly litigation which the Commission is seeking to arrange.
Conference of State Department Heads. The State Commission feels that with the application of the rules to the larger villages, the principle of competition has been extended as far over the civil divisions of the State as is now practicable. While there may be particular offices existing in the county or village service throughout the State which may be properly brought within the rules, the effort in the immediate future should be to secure the impartial and thorough application of the competitive principle rather than to further extend the scope of the Commission's work. It is important to demonstrate through careful administration the practicability of the merit system of appointment to public office and to convince the people that through it they are securing the most competent and most faithful conduct of official business possible. To reach out for counties or villages of comparatively small population and simple government, where competition would necessarily be restricted and the benefits to be derived in no way commensurate with the resulting expense and trouble, would be a mistake.
The Commission may, however, properly look forward to availing itself of opportunities to improve the public service which belong to it by reason of the close relations which through the nature of its work it sustains with every other department of the State government. It is the natural and proper agency through which the officials in charge of the several State departments may be brought together for consideration of common problems of administration and for action looking to uniformity of procedure and co-ordination of functions.
The initial step to such co-operative work was taken at the instance of the State Civil Service Commission early in February, when on its invitation the State officers and department heads gathered to discuss the question of vacations for employees and consider the possibility of adopting a uniform plan therefor. This conference was of great interest and elicited suggestions that it might be reassembled to consider problems of larger importance and those in whose settlement the State officials acting together might properly exert a helpful influence. Its recommendations