Mayor Asks Council to Remove Police, Fire Chief Posts From Civil Service
Without the state-administered testing process and other requirements, the mayor would have greater leeway to hire or fire a chief and even restructure the positions.
Mayor Ted Bettencourt wants to remove both the police and fire chief's jobs in Peabody from Civil Service requirements.
If he's successful, that would give Bettencourt much more leeway in appointing new chiefs (absent Civil Service exam scores and assessments) and allow him to treat them as he would any other department head. The law, as of 1987, allows for this, but it's not without controversy.
Critics of the measure argue it just politicizes such an important job and may weaken incentive for officers to advance in the same department, while proponents say Civil Service places too many restrictions and thereby, limitations, on appointing a chief.
Bettencourt sent a brief letter to the City Council on Friday, asking councilors to take a vote to remove both public safety officials' jobs from the jurisdiction of Civil Service.
His letter did not explain why he wished to do so and simply asked that the matter be put into sub-committee for further consideration and discussion.
The letter was submitted for the council's upcoming regular meeting on March 14.
Such a vote is not without precedent -- in Newburyport, city councilors supported a similar request from their mayor and forwarded the matter on to state lawmakers for approval by home-rule petition. Gov. Deval Patrick signed that legislation in 2011 for the Clipper City.
Haverhill also successfully removed its police chief from Civil Service in 1995 and did the same with the fire chief in 2012. A public safety commissioner now oversees both departments and has a fire chief under him.
The timing, for Peabody, would appear opportune at least as far as the police chief is concerned.
Longtime Chief Robert Champagne is retiring June 1 and Bettencourt has made no public moves yet on starting the process to find a new chief, although he said last fall he wanted to begin that process immediately.
Bettencourt made no mention of either Champagne's impending departure or Fire Chief Steven Pasdon in his recent letter to the council.
Pasdon has been chief for more than a decade and spent 32 years as a Peabody firefighter. If the job was removed from Civil Service, it would effect the next chief, not Pasdon.