Editorial: Keep civil service out of hiring of technology job

The Lima News

City Council would be driving Lima down a road filled with potholes if it requires the Civil Service Board to be part of the hiring of a chief technology officer.

The position sought by Lima Mayor David Berger would be an additional “cabinet level” job with the person overseeing a newly formed technology department.

Councilors Rebecca Kreher and Sam McLean are leading the charge for a civil service requirement, arguing that it provides the job protection needed to keep a highly-skilled person.

Such a demand, however, doesn’t best serve the residents of Lima.

The hiring of a chief technology officer — or any position for that matter — should be about job performance, not job protection. That’s why the other alternative for filling this position — a mayoral appointment — is a better option. It gives the mayor unrestrained oversight of the job, thus better serving the public by ensuring more accountability for the person’s performance.

Kreher worries that without civil service protection, Lima risks losing a highly qualified person when a new mayor takes office. In that regard she’s correct. But shouldn’t new mayors have the privilege of appointing their own staff, and isn’t it true there are many people capable of handling any given job?

Council members shouldn’t be looking at this hire with the misguided notion that a lifetime employee is needed. If it works out that way, great, but what taxpayers don’t need is an under-achiever hiding under civil service protection.

The bigger questions we see are can Lima afford to add a new department and is it truly needed.

McLean and fellow councilors Jon Neeper and Derry Glenn have raised concerns about the cost of a new department, with McLean noting the initiative “has a lot of bright points, but it has a lot of expensive points.”

Mayor Berger argues it is affordable. His plan is to hire a department head at a salary of around $90,000. The other employees would come from existing departments.

The mayor also pointed out that if the chief technology officer was a direct mayoral appointee, the position could more easily be nixed if the department isn’t functioning properly.

The need for the position is arguably there.

Over the years the city has amassed 55 separate software and computer systems that don’t always talk with each other. Another example is the length of time it has taken the police department to find the most useful body cameras. The process likely would have happened sooner if more help and expertise were available.

The new chief technology officer would be charged with defining technology strategies and ensuring processes meet expectations for federal, state and community privacy and security. He or she would lead technology teams in day-to-day operations and set performance goals. The person also would evaluate and review new products or proposed solutions and monitor hardware, software, databases and licenses.

We give City Council credit for taking its time to study the workings and benefits of establishing a technology department. Many questions have been asked and answered. Now it’s time to move forward.


The Lima News

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