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Civil service ‘questionable practices’ raise troubling questions

Civil Service exams are supposed to be the great leveler, where scoring the highest presumably leads to hiring the best candidates for the job.

Not so, it seems in Islip, where three job applicants complained that town officials used threats of citations for code violations at their homes — or those of their parents — to get them to decline fire marshal jobs.

An investigator also received complaints about the use of other “questionable practices” — including not calling interested candidates for interviews — that may have cleared the way for Islip to hire five temporary fire marshals for permanent positions, Suffolk Personnel Director Alan Schneider said in a letter to Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter on May 27.

Carpenter and other town officials weren’t talking last week.

Perhaps that’s because Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office is said to be looking into the case.

Still, there appears to be so much wrong here, it’s hard to pick the start line.

Did town officials abuse their authority? Code laws are supposed to ensure that buildings are safe. Here, they’re alleged to have been used as cudgels.

Sources told Newsday’s David Schwartz that three candidates were shown aerial photos of the homes from Google Maps that included images of sheds or pools that hadn’t properly been cited on certificates of occupancy. Applicants were told if they accepted the job and there was later determined to be a code violation at the homes, they could be terminated and permanently removed from the Civil Service list.

In short, take your pick: A job, or potential code violation and trouble for Mom and Dad.

And then, there are the jobs.

Good-paying, essential public jobs, with benefits, are hard to come by for young residents on Long Island, where the middle class increasingly is hard pressed to make ends meet.

And what about public safety, and public trust?

The town fire marshal’s division investigates violations of town codes and enforces state fire codes. It also issues hazardous storage, fireworks, public assembly and tent permits. And the office works with local law enforcement, fire departments and the town’s hazardous materials division.

These are important jobs, which may be why some of the complaints to Suffolk County Civil Service came from town fire departments and an elected town council member, whom a source identified as Republican Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, who declined to comment.

Then there’s the damage to Civil Service, which is supposed to squeeze politics and favoritism from the public hiring process.

Should the allegations prove true, Islip, like some other towns in years past, rigged the system.

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