Portsmouth City Council adopts new Civil Service rules

By Frank Lewis

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Portsmouth City Council adopted a resolution Monay evening accepting recent changes made to the Civil Service rules and regulations. Civil Service Commission members John Stevenson, Dick Grimm and Dr. Wayne Wheeler were on hand to answer questions, but Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas took the lead and informed Council as to the changes.

“We really modernized them and brought them up to work closer with the state rules and with other cities similar to ours,” Haas said. “We made the hiring process and the promotional process much clearer.”

Haas said when he became the attorney for the Civil Service Commission it was not real clear as to what the procedures were with respect to hiring and promoting.

“We spent a lot of the time we spent over the last year to iron that out and make it as clear and as objective as possible,” Haas said.

Haas said the hiring and promoting is not as reliant on the ability to take a Civil Service exam as it was before.

“There is weight put on interviews and other necessary skills for the positions,” Haas said. He said, especially with police and fire, the city was going to utilize assessment centers where potential employees are sent off to a rigorous interview process. “What the goal is, obviously is to hire and promote the best people we can to fill the positions.”

Another change that stands out in the new rules is the replacement of police chief and fire chief. In the past, when one of them retired or left for any reason, the captains in the police department and the fire department automatically were considered to fill the vacancy.

“The change in hiring for police and fire have now been opened up to outside chiefs,” Haas said. “These two (Police Chief Robert Ware and Fire Chief Bill Raison) who are here tonight will remain in the position, but when they retire or otherwise move on, of course the captains in both departments are eligible to apply for it, but it will be open to outside people.”

Haas said the members of the Commission talked with the chiefs and the captains and they were all in agreement with the change.

“It was overwhelmingly determined by the rank and file in both departments that that was a good idea,” Haas said. “It’s much like we did with the city manager.”

Haas said that while the chief positions would be open to people from outside the departments, there were certain required qualifications.

“As soon as these are enacted I think there’s going to be some positions that need to be filled with the fire and police departments and we’ll be under the new rules,” Haas said.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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