Civil Service Commissioners will hold another meeting Wednesday before they potentially take a stance on a proposal that would strip away hiring functions from Civil Service to hopefully speed up the city’s hiring process — something commissioners say they were not given ample time to respond to.

City officials have proposed a charter amendment to the city’s Civil Service process that would take hiring functions away from the department and put it into the hands of Human Resources, something they said needs to be done to accelerate hiring and shrink a roughly 22% vacancy rate.

The Civil Service Department has served as a safeguard against cronyism and other discriminatory hiring practices for decades, and the proposal floated last month has sparked outrage and concern among some rank-and-file employees and Civil Service commissioners.

The commission can provide recommendations on the issue but the City Council will have the final say on what gets put on the ballot for voters in November.

As the issue barrels toward a City Council vote in April to start the process of putting the proposal on the ballot, employees and commissioners continue to clash with high-ranking officials over whether the change is really what’s needed to spur hiring in the city.

The timeline has led to the commission having to run a “fire drill” to come up with recommendations to city management, which might ultimately not be incorporated into the final ballot language.

Commissioner Joen Garnica told City Manager Tom Modica that it felt like the commission’s input was going to be limited to grammatical changes, something that Garnica said would amount to a waste of everyone’s time who showed up to the Thursday night meeting that lasted nearly five hours.

“I know your mind is made up, it’s going to the ballot, fine,” Garnica said. “But let’s have the best quality product on the ballot.”

Modica told the commission he would consider its ideas, but if they strayed too far from what he has proposed, or if it proposed keeping the city’s two-pronged hiring system, they wouldn’t make it into the proposed amendment.

“I’m not going to support that, I’m going to be honest with you,” Modica said.

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A capacity crowd of city employees, directors and labor representatives packed a conference room inside city hall Thursday night to air out their feelings on a proposal with some employees being forced to stand in the hallway or in other offices. Others listened to the meeting with the help of colleagues who held up phones to transmit the meeting, which was not being broadcast or live-streamed.

Some pointed to how the pandemic shifted peoples’ work-life balance priorities and others said the issue could be helped by providing Civil Service with more staff. While the department’s budget has grown over the years it has fewer employees than it had prior to the Great Recession.

Others pointed to the city’s compensation compared to other municipalities, with one referring to Long Beach as a training ground for other cities that hire away Long Beach employees, offering better pay.

“We need to worry about our own house before we go out and worry about the money being made in hotels,” Commissioner Robyn Gordon-Peterson said.

The City Council voted to put a ballot measure on the March 5 primary that would raise the minimum wage for workers at the city’s largest hotels.

Department directors shared anecdotes of how they said the Civil Service process was not allowing them to fill positions fast enough. Meanwhile, Civil Service staff stated that departments were not using the lists of eligible workers provided to them, commissioners were taken aback that they had not heard about these problems previously.

Last week, Modica said that directors regularly meet at the same time as the Civil Service Commission, but beyond that, they are told not to meddle in the Civil Service process. Multiple commissioners said regardless of what happens at the ballot box, that needs to change so the city can start fixing its hiring problem over the next nine months.

“Protocol, professional courtesy, that all needs to go out of the window because we’ve already done that in this thing that we’re doing,” Commissioner Jose Osuna said, imploring department directors to come talk to him about issues they’re facing. “We’re considering putting this on the ballot because people aren’t talking to each other.”

While the ballot measure would strip away hiring duties from the Civil Service it also proposes to give residents of the city, those that have attended area schools and colleges and existing part-time employees, an advantage in landing a job with the city in the future.

Multiple commissioners said they liked the idea of those new pathways but still wanted to hear more about how the other changes would affect their powers and the employees whom they work to represent.

I can safely say that this commission is completely in favor of preferences,” Garnica said. “We want to help our people.”

The commission is expected to meet again Wednesday, March 6.

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