Civil Service scraps first director search; To start over from beginningJan 21st, 2013 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: news
The Civil Service Commission at their January 16 meeting voted to start the entire hiring process over for the Director of Port Security and Vessels position. That process includes reviewing the job description and requirements, and re-advertising
the job listing.
The investigation into the hiring process for the Director of Port Administration position is still ongoing. Both positions are at the center of controversy after five Port employees brought forth allegations of misconduct to the Civil Service Commission earlier this month. Individuals from outside the department were selected. The five existing Port employees who applied and were not selected feel their work
history, experience with the department and other qualifications make them the superior candidates.
The positions were advertised on September 26 and closed on October 5. According to Civil Service Director William L. Paradelas, once the applicants are reviewed by Civil Service, the pool is narrowed down to a list of the three most qualified— those
who most closely match the job’s requirements.
The list of three chosen applicants was then submitted to the Port Manager for review. The Port Manager made his recommendations before passing the information up the chain of command to the Port Chairman, for final selection. In a letter to Port
Chairman Anthony Buras reviewing the candidates he interviewed, Pennison recommended two inhouse candidates, he wrote, based on their training
and experience with Port Operations.
According to Pennison’s formal letters to Buras, the candidate recommended for the Port Director of Security position has 15 years of Port Operations experience and extensive HAZMAT, fire and other relevant training; and the candidate recommended
for the Port Director of Administration position was integral in the modernization of the Port’s Accounting system, and is completing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.
When Pennison’s recommendations were not followed and the five employees discovered that out-of-department applicants they deemed less qualified were selected, they hired their own attorney, Donovan Livaccari of New Orleans, to
advise them on the matter.
Livaccari specializes in civil service cases. The Civil Service Commission also hired a Civil Service specialist, Attorney Jay Ginsberg, to assist them in
the investigation process.
“It appears, at least from my initial look at it [applicant files], that the applicants submitted to Mr. Buras for consideration met the minimum requirements as stated in the job application,” said Livacarri at the January 16 meeting. Minimum acceptable qualifications required for the Port Director position are listed in the sidebar
at the right.
“The [civil service] system is designed for hiring based on merit and qualifications; I would encourage the Civil Service commission to restart the process,” said Livaccari.
He noted that per Civil Service rules, candidates can only be removed from the list of eligibles if they do not meet the minimum requirements.
Additionally, the rules state that those on the promotion list, or in-house candidates, are to trump those from outside departments. Livaccari explained that although only one of the candidates for the Port Director of Security and Vessels holds a Bachelor’s degree, equivalent experience can be substituted in lieu of the degree, per the line “or any combination of education, training, and experience which provides the skills
and knowledge required for the positions.”
Paradelas explained during the meeting that although the situation could look and seem suspicious, it truly is a matter of misunderstanding the job description.
“I know it looks like I was in cahoots with the appointing authority on getting someone
appointed to the position. I can guarantee you that was not the case; after reviewing all the applications, had I been more attentive to the qualifications in the job requirement, several of these applicants wouldn’t have been listed and certified from my office,” said Paradelas. “Mr. Buras was looking for someone with a lot more experience in the security field than I anticipated; I’ve always tried to give current employees the opportunity to be promoted and I went a little bit toward those individuals, so if I’ve created a mess here I apologize.”
The Civil Service Commission unanimously voted that before the job listing is advertised again, the job description and requirements will be reviewed.
“I’m glad they’re starting over but I hope reviewing the job description and requirements doesn’t mean they’re going to change it to benefit one person over
another,” said one Port employee after the vote.