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Babylon Town plans to create its own civil service department, remove workers from Suffolk system 

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer in Jan.

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer in Jan. 2019. Credit: Shelby Knowles

Babylon Town officials plan to be the first to remove their civil service employees from the Suffolk County system and hope to do so by the end of 2020, voting recently to get the process started.

Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer cited slow response rates from the county for the town’s 360 civil service employees, with staff waiting months for promotions “that people are entitled to.”

Schaffer said the delay in promotions and inquiries “causes a morale issue here.”

By giving the town direct control over its civil service issues, “we believe we’re able to provide better service for our workforce here,” Schaffer said.

In Nassau, Hempstead and North Hempstead towns have their own civil service departments.

A spokesman for Suffolk County declined to comment.

In May, the town hired Alan Schneider, former longtime head of the Suffolk Civil Service Department, to consult with the town over the creation of its own civil service department. County Executive Steve Bellone had recently fired Schneider, who led the department for 36 years, and appointed Joanne Taormina as acting county personnel director.

Babylon and Brookhaven towns got a temporary restraining order against Bellone’s personnel changes, but Schaffer said “it became a moot point” because Schneider resigned without explanation after Bellone indicated plans to “probe a personnel issue in civil service,” Newsday previously reported.

Schaffer hired Schneider, at a rate of $90 an hour, not exceeding $50,000, after Schaffer informed county officials that “we’ll deal directly with the state” for civil service matters.

The town supervisor said Judith Garrick in the town comptroller’s office handles personnel matters for the town and will most likely be tapped to head the new Department of Civil Service.

“She’s talented enough to assume other responsibilities and she’ll do it well,” Schaffer said. He anticipates costs for the new department being between $50,000 and $60,000, for a yet-to-be-determined pay raise for Garrick and paying a new assistant.

The town board voted on Sept. 4 to set two public hearings on the matter for its Sept. 25 meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 200 Sunrise Hwy. in Lindenhurst.

Schaffer said he expects the town board to vote in favor of the new department in October. State law requires a yearlong transition, overseen by the state Department of Civil Service, before the town can fully take over operations from the county.

While the town initially expected to cover all civil service employees, including those in its library, school and fire districts, that’s no longer the case, Schaffer said.

“I wouldn’t foreclose that for the future,” he said. But for now, “never bite off more than you can chew.”

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