LA County Commission Recommends Return to Political Patronage in Hiring

by ALADS Board of Directors
In 1905, the philosopher George Santayana wrote that "Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it." Apparently, judging by their most recent recommendations, this is a concept wholly unfamiliar to the folks at the Los Angeles County "Citizens Economy and Efficiency Commission."
The Commission's most recent 24-page report, " A Review and Analysis of Los Angeles County's Civil Service Hiring Process ", recommends "process improvements" and calls for expansion of the ability of department heads to be able to hire and promote whomever they want outside of the current merit and testing systems.  The report even suggests offering special pay.  Notably, they also suggest allowing "off-schedule" hiring even when "there is no officially identified vacancy for them to fill."
This commission does allow that such an idea is "unconventional" and counterintuitive to the core concepts of the Civil Service System .  Actually, they underplay how the proposal should be labeled.  Ignorant, dangerous, exceptionally stupid are some of the descriptive adjectives that immediately spring to mind.
Maybe these folks weren't paying attention to what just happened at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, where the former Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka are headed to federal prison, as are several deputies that were caught up in schemes orchestrated by Baca and Tanaka. The crux of the case was a toxic culture Baca/Tanaka created where they prized loyalty over the law, causing those who followed their lead to believe they could act with impunity. Now a County Commission recommends giving department heads even more power to hire underlings who by dint of how they were hired will be loyal and beholden.
George Santayana's words were written roughly 20 years after the creation of the Federal Civil Service Act.  That act created a merit-based system based on the principles of a fair and open recruitment free of political influence, ending the corruption stemming from the spoils and patronage system then in place.  Those reforms, aimed at the non-managerial level, were duplicated by state and local entities nationwide and led to professional expertise and qualifications being required for hiring.
The Civil Service System is not perfect and the Baca/Tanaka reign shows that, even with civil service, bad leaders can lead to very bad results. However, the corruption that was rampant in the early history of this country was largely ended by a merit-based system that stops the hiring of cronies and flunkies for a government job.  Any serious look at both recent and distant history shows the danger of the approach the Commission suggests and should lead to the report being filed in its proper place--the round file.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,900 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.  Like our Facebook page 

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