West: Civil service rules could remain

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Natchez Mayor Phillip West said Thursday that if the Civil Service Commission were abolished, the procedures it uses could remain in place to protect police officers and firefighters.

&uot;That would be no problem,&uot; he said. &uot;The rules already in place could be maintained,&uot; he said.

But if the city voted to end the Civil Service Commission &045; in place since 1962 &045; it would have to ask the Legislature to abolish the commission. Both the House and Senate would have give approval.

Email newsletter signup

West would not give specific allegations related to his concerns with the Civil Service Commission.

At the end of a board of aldermen meeting Wednesday, West called for the resignation of commission Chairman George Robinson and suggested the city abolish the commission altogether.

&uot;The major problem is the people who are under civil service don’t have faith and confidence in situations that happened in the past,&uot; West said.

&uot;There’s a lack of confidence in what has taken place.&uot;

The Civil Service Commission, a three-member board appointed by the city, was created by state statute. Several other communities across the state have similar boards. The commission is in charge of hiring uniformed officers as well as administering the exams and conducting interviews needed for promotions.

The commission also affords due process to officers or firefighters who have been disciplined or suspended.

Robinson said Wednesday he has no intention of resigning. The chairman of the commission is elected by members of the commission. Commission members James Cole and James Coleman would not comment on Thursday, saying Robinson was the spokesperson for the commission.

West met with police officers at the police department in recent weeks but said he has not met with firefighters as a group. Some firefighters individually have told him of problems with civil service, he said. &uot;The things they are alleging has helped create an atmosphere of disunity,&uot; West said.

But West admitted other concerns &045; including salary issues &045; have also dampened morale among officers, according to those he has spoken to.

The state Legislature created the commission system through state statues.

City Attorney Walter Brown said there is no overall state board governing civil service commissions, but the state statute spells out the duties and responsibilities of the commission.

Even before the mayor’s suggestion this week, the aldermen and the Civil Service Commission had been at odds. The commission voted last week to take legal action against the city when the aldermen voted to rehire a police officer who resigned seven years ago amid allegations of bribery.

Mayor West said the commission &uot;seems to think it has more authority than the board elected to oversee the protection of the community.&uot;

Robinson said he and the commission were simply &uot;discharging the duties of the office.&uot;

&uot;This is the first time my leadership has been called into question,&uot; Robinson said.