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State: Long Beach civil service system needs fix

A state review of the Long Beach civil service system found it impossible to tell if the more than 1,000 employees were qualified for their jobs or being paid the proper salaries and set a May 1 deadline for a plan to fix it.

The report by the state Civil Service Commission found the operation of the city's merit system, designed to keep politics out of public sector jobs, has worsened in some ways since the state agency revealed widespread flaws in 2004. It gave the city's Municipal Civil Service Commission until Dec. 31 to make the necessary repairs.

The city's commission received a zero rating in one of its main tasks: payroll certification. Civil service law requires the commission to certify payrolls before civil servants are paid to ensure workers serve in the correct job titles and earn salaries appropriate for their jobs.

The commission did not provide a certified payroll for the January review, the state agency said, and is violating the law by paying workers in absence of that document.

In a statement, state commission president Nancy Groenwegen said: "These serious deficiencies in the Long Beach Civil Service operations have persisted for at least six years."

City commission chairman William Miller declined to comment. His assistant referred requests to commission secretary Tammy Wilson, who didn't return a call.

The three-member local commission, appointed by the City Council but independent of city government, oversees the city's 477 employees, the school district's 576, the housing authority's 33, and an unknown number of library workers, according to 2008 figures.

City Councilman Len Torres, a Democrat, said city leaders are "politicizing these public jobs" for the city and "making a mockery of state law."

City Manager Charles Theofan dismissed Torres' claim and said the local commission and city officials have made strides to reform the civil service, such as certifying a payroll last February. "I really rejoice in this report because even though it's quite critical, it's the absolute perfect road map to help us achieve total compliance," he said.

State agency spokesman David Ernst said the 2009 payroll certification lacked elements necessary to comply with the law.

The state said the commission's employment histories were "deficient" and lacked proof that promotions, transfers and appointments were made properly. The agency ordered the city's commission to correct 27 outstanding problems, such as updating employment histories and certifying payrolls.

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