The Chief-Leader Councilman Prods DCAS To Expedite Hiring Lists by Dan Rosenblum

The Chief-Leader
The Chief-Leader
Councilman Prods DCAS To Expedite Hiring Lists
Dan Rosenblum

The time between a candidate taking a civil-service exam and a list being established has fallen by six months, according to the most recent statistics. Still, Ben Kallos, the Chair of the City Council’s Governmental Operations asking the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to adjust its goals to encourage even more progress in the future and to better diversify the city’s applicant pool.

In figures compiled in the Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report, the median time from exam administration to establishment of a hiring list declined from 439 days during July to October 2013 to 244 days last year.

‘Shockingly’ Long Wait

“The idea of waiting for a civil-service exam and having to wait to find out where you were on the list more than a year away was shocking to me and unacceptable,” Mr. Kallos recently told this newspaper. He commended DCAS’s recent progress, but the open-data advocate and former labor lawyer wondered why the agency couldn’t set goals to correct chronic racial or gender gaps.

New hires last summer identified themselves as 29 percent white, 41 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic and 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, according to the MMR. Though agencies typically manage their own hiring, DCAS administers the tests and advertises positions. In a Council hearing held last month, department officials said the diversity data was supplied for transparency, but couldn’t be used to set standards.

“Since we operate a test-based system, really, someone’s selection into a job has to do more so with their rank on a particular list or their score on an actual exam as opposed to an ethnic group or a gender to which they belong,” said Dawn Pinnock, the Deputy Commissioner for Human Capital. She added that DCAS was “casting a wider net” to diversify the candidate pool.

But Mr. Kallos was unsatisfied with the agency’s lack of targets.

“If these are outside of their control, then why is it one of their performance measurements?” he said. “And if it is under their control, I do believe that DCAS can use some of its resources to make sure they are targeting and recruiting to diverse communities.”

More Advance Planning

DCAS officials said they have increased the number of tests they give and are starting to use more workforce planning and attrition data to project testing needs instead of giving exams as agencies request them. Though Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch said the department wanted to verify its assumptions before adjusting its list-establishment goal at less than one year, Mr. Kallos was discouraged that the agency wasn’t using that success to revise its targets.

“I am glad that they have set a new target of 360 days, but I think it would be more appropriate for them to set the target more in line with where they actually are,” he said. “So it should be 300 days or 240 days. Let’s shave off four days and let’s see how much further down we can get it.”

The Council’s Civil Service Committee, chaired by I. Daneek Miller of Queens, has held joint hearings with Mr. Kallos’s committee to examine the agency’s progress in speeding its list administration and replacing more than 8,000 provisional employees to comply with the 2007 Long Beach decision by the State Court of Appeals that required municipalities to limit provisional employment to nine months.

‘Need for Resources’

“When we look at DCAS and our civil-service system, we realize how essential it is to provide the proper resources to maintain, grow, and strengthen our municipal workforce,” Mr. Miller said in a statement. “For this reason the city has set aside an additional $3.3 million in civil-service compliance funding for this year.”

That included money for consultants to develop some exams and add 173 work stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, bringing the total to 386. It also included $516,000 to hire seven employees to run computerized- testing centers and insource five IT positions that were contracted out.

A 2013 Independent Budget Office report projected that by the fiscal year beginning July 2016, 34 percent of the city’s workforce will be eligible to retire, particularly skilled-craft workers and high-ranking administrators.

In response, Mr. Kallos suggested the city move quickly to market city jobs to future college graduates, private-sector employees and the unemployed who, along with veterans and those receiving public assistance, can have their exam fees waived.

“There’s a lot to do there and we do need to make sure that we get our civil-service exams working so that we can fill those positions,” Mr. Kallos said. “Because if we reduce our provisionals all the way down and then all of a sudden five years from now have to start hiring them again to fill one-third of the seats, we will have a huge loss.”