The Long Beach Civil Service Commission voted Wednesday to send city officials a letter outlining concerns about potentially sweeping changes to the city’s hiring process.

Long Beach’s city manager and mayor have proposed doing away with the current split hiring process that requires many applicants to qualify for positions through Civil Service exams overseen by the commission before moving on to job interviews.

Top city management says the current process has delayed hiring and contributed to a 22% vacancy rate across municipal jobs. To streamline this, they want voters to approve a ballot measure that would take hiring functions away from Civil Service and centralize them in the Human Resources Department.

The Civil Service Commission, which views itself as a safeguard against bias and cronyism in the hiring process, has loudly questioned whether this is a good idea.

In their latest move, they voted Wednesday to send a letter written by Civil Service Commission Chair Eric Frost Hollins that listed several concerns. Perhaps chief among them, Frost Hollins worried that the Civil Service Commission’s current power to hear appeals about employee discipline could be neutered.

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Currently, the City Manager has the final say on any employee discipline, unless it’s appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which can overrule him.

If voters approve the proposed changes, the Commission would still hear appeals, but Frost Hollins pointed out that the people investigating the employee’s accusations would no longer be Civil Service staff; they’d be part of the Human Resources Department, which answers to the City Manager’s office.

“The city manager is the listed complainant on all employee appeals, is in fact the individual whose decision is being appealed, and it would defy all due process to allow a person under the control of the city manager to take part in any hearings and deliberations as an advisor,” he wrote.

The letter also asked for clarity about how Human Resources would rank candidates for a job, something the Civil Service Department currently handles.

At previous meetings, Civil Service Commissioners have accused the city of arbitrarily rushing the process to get proposed changes to voters in November, a concern Frost Hollins echoed Wednesday.

“We shouldn’t be looking at huge systemic changes when conversation is what’s needed,” he said.

Commissioner Joen Garnica started Wednesday’s meeting by reiterating that shifting hiring duties to the Human Resources Department may not be a true fix for the problem, which could be more rooted in applicants declining offers or not qualifying for jobs.

She pointed to a public safety dispatcher job posting that she said had 55 people apply for 13 vacancies, but only one person qualified, according to Garnica. Most of the applicants (38) did not show up for the required exam, which is not a Civil Service problem, she said.

“No one can control, and none of you can control, that 38 people did not show up for an exam,” Garnica said.

The commission could issue a formal stance on the proposed changes as soon as next week, but it has signaled that it likely won’t support the charter amendment as written. The commission’s assent is not necessary. The City Council can still decide to place it in front of voters, who would have the final say.

It appears many city employees also oppose the change although their unions have been divided on the issue.

Some, like the Long Beach Police Officers Association and the Long Beach Management Association, support the idea, but, the city’s largest employee union, the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, and the Association of Engineering Employees have said they will not back the proposal.

Together, the IAM and AEE represent over 58% of unionized city workers, according to the city’s website.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.