The North Carolina House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 470 (NC HB470), a vital piece of legislation aimed at addressing the needs and concerns of the state's firefighters. The bill, which received overwhelming bipartisan support, is now set to move to the North Carolina Senate, where it will be subject to further deliberation and a potential vote.
Throughout the legislative process, the Professional Fire Fighters of Greensboro and the Professional Fire Fighters of North Carolina have remained staunch advocates for the bill's passage. These organizations are committed to ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of their fellow firefighters and will continue to work diligently to garner support for NC HB470 as it makes its way through the state's legislative channels.
WHAT IS A CIVIL SERVICE BOARD?
Civil service boards have been utilized in the United States since 1871. The original intent of such boards was to curb political favoritism, combat nepotism, and generally combat "good-ol'-boy" networks. Various forms of civil service boards have provided protections for federal, state, and local government employees for well over a century. Civil service boards guard against different forms of discrimination, provide due process, and promote transparency.
Currently, there are five Civil Service Boards operating in North Carolina: Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Statesville, and Wilmington.
WHY CITY OF GREENSBORO EMPLOYEES NEED A CIVIL SERVICE BOARD
The disciplinary process in the city of Greensboro is entirely weighted in management’s favor. In fact, a prominent labor/employment attorney here in North Carolina has used the Greensboro disciplinary process as a case study in worst practices for employees. While the new disciplinary process within the GFD was a positive step forward, firefighters still lack basic due process.
A civil service board in Greensboro would play three important roles:
- Ensure equal application of policy and guard against discriminationM
- Protect due process
- Promote efficiency and transparency
Ensure equal application of policy and guard against discrimination: Civil service boards have been put in place to guard against "good-old-boy" systems that create unequal application of policy based on discrimination or opinions. A civil service board in Greensboro would ensure every employee is treated fairly by providing oversight in the disciplinary process.
Protect due process: The disciplinary policies and procedures in Greensboro lack due process. Disciplinary decisions are inconsistent across departments and are often based on the opinions of department heads. The system is heavily stacked against any employee who finds themselves in disciplinary action. A civil service board would allow genuine due process and hold both employees and management accountable to city policy. Employees would be allowed an advocate in the room, including a lawyer, during the civil service board process.
Promote efficiency and transparency: The language in our draft bill specifically references the promotion of efficiencies in policy. By its very nature, a civil service board promotes government transparency. Local government transparency often leads to increased efficiencies and is always good public policy.
(Note: We want to be clear- Local 947’s efforts to gain civil service protections and our criticisms of the city policy are not aimed at Chief Robinson or Fire Administration. Local 947 is, however, critical of the city’s disciplinary policy. We have seen the disparate application of discipline by numerous department heads over the years and it is our position that discipline should not be predicated on the personal disposition of any department head.)
BACKGROUND OF LOCAL 947 EFFORTS
Until late last year, we had been unsuccessful in gaining the support of the NC General Assembly members who represent Greensboro and Guilford County. A bill was filed at the end of the 2022 session but, unfortunately, never made it out of committee due to opposition by members of the Greensboro City Council. The Greensboro civil service board would be implemented through a local bill that would be filed in the NC General Assembly.
HOW WOULD A CIVIL SERVICE BOARD IN GREENSBORO WORK?
The civil service format we are advocating around very closely mirrors the Asheville process, which has been in place since the 1950s.
The proposed civil service board would consist of five members: two appointed by City Council (which must be city residents), two elected by city employees, and one member appointed by the other four members of the board. The term of office is two years.
The civil service board would work with the Human Resources Department to resolve employee grievances on an as needed basis and meet on a periodic basis to discuss personnel administration issues.