LIMA — The Lima Civil Service Board tentatively approved Mayor David Berger’s call to expand the number of candidates provided to the administration via the board’s testing procedures during a meeting held Tuesday afternoon, June 9.
Under current rules, the board formulates and administers tests and interviews to find applicable candidates for open positions with the City of Lima administration. Once the process is completed, eligibility lists of 10 candidates per position are then submitted to the city, but Berger argued that the current “Rule of 10” has limited candidate pools and made them less diverse.
“If folks have taken the test, and they know they’ve passed, which is the communication that you (the civil service board) send, right? And then they never hear from us (the administration), that starts the rumor mill in the community,” Berger said to the board.
The result is that large subsets of the community become discouraged from taking the test at all, Berger explained.
To solve the issue, Berger asked the board to nix the “Rule of 10” completely and to open up eligibility lists to anyone who formally passes the civil service test for each position.
Similar arguments have been made in the past. Before the “Rule of 10” was the “Rule of 3,” which limited eligibility lists to the only the top three candidates. Subsequently, the “Rule of 10” was passed to try to encourage diversity of candidates.
Berger said the change did help diversity city employees, but if the city is dedicated to making the city’s workforce better represent the people in the city, opening up eligibility lists would help remove a major stumbling block.
The civil service board had its doubts initially.
“We’re aware that the diversity mix in regards to the candidates taking the test is not very good,” Board President Pilate Bradley said. However, Bradley suggested that recruitment efforts and advertising may be where the weak link lies in increasing diversity.
Human Resources Director Kari Keener spoke on the city’s recruitment efforts in the past.
“I can take flyers and speak to people. I’m going to beauty shops. I’m going to car washes. I’m traipsing all over town trying to recruit people to come take the test,” Keener said. “And they still won’t show up.”
Keener said the city also uses online advertisements, such as Indeed.com and social media, to try to drum up recruitment, but she has seen a continued reluctance.
Discussions between the administration and civil service board also included talks about certification requirements to see if that was an issue. Public Works Director Howard Elstro said the city has tried to be flexible with particular certification requirements. For the police department, training is often provided after the hire, and for commercial driver’s license certifications, the city has a program that can eventually push someone toward receiving such a license.
Later in the meeting, Board Secretary Debra Vobbe argued against the move pointing out that the administration already receives the entire candidate pools when choosing police officers, and that opening up eligibility lists would be a moot point for the Lima Police Department. Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith, however, said that the purpose of opening up lists is to combat a community perception in order to encourage more people to take the tests in the first place.
By the meeting’s finish, civil service board members voiced their agreement with the change. Bradley said he doesn’t foresee any sticking points down the road, but he will be working with Lima’s Law Director Tony Geiger in more detail to better understand and weigh any negative potentialities that may come from the policy change.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.