N.J. Civil Service Commission rules in Jersey City’s favor in rec dept. reorganization case

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The New Jersey Civil Service Commission has ruled in the favor of the City of Jersey City in an ongoing case related to the recreation department being reorganized in late 2019.

Photo via nj.gov.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The appellants failure to apply for a position in the new department does not show that the reorganization was improper, nor does it establish that they were singled out at the time of their transfer,” the commission’s January 22nd ruling says.

“Additionally, the appointing authority’s request for applications did not violate any Civil Service laws or rules.”

On October 21st, 2019, city council members expressed civil service concerns about the rec department reorg, though they did not have the votes to repeal it at their October 23rd session.

About six months later, 10 recreation department employees filed a lawsuit that alleged discrimination, defamation, civil rights violations, and retaliation all related to the reorganization, which is still pending.

While civil service decision does not address any of these claims since they don’t have jurisdiction in those matters, they are clear in ruling that the city followed the proper guidelines in doing a department reorganization.

“The appellants have failed to show that they have experienced any objective negative impact as a result of the reorganization, as they continued to serve in their permanent titles after the transfer occurred,” their decision also says.

City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione applauded the commission’s findings and framed them as a win for the city as a whole.

“We are glad that Civil Service ruled with the city and dismissed these baseless claims entirely,” she began.

“This is a win for residents and this should send a broader message that as an administration we won’t stop pushing for positive changes to our city, even when there are long term employees that do everything possible to protect the status quo with baseless accusations.”

However, Desha Jackson, former counsel for the plaintiffs, said that the employees withdrew their civil service appeals in June 2019, which were approved in July of 2020 so it was unclear to her why civil service issued an opinion here.

Still, she emphasized that this result does not mean the allegations made in the litigation are settled.

” … The Civil Service Commission’s decision does not mean there was no discrimination whether disparate or by impact, nor does it mean that these people were not retaliated against for speaking up. It also doesn’t mean that the statements about them were true either. Even Civil Service says they do not have jurisdiction over these issues,” Jackson said.

The court matter was set to go to trial on April 12th, though that was cancelled on January 25th and a new date has not been scheduled.