Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hillsborough County agencies fighting change

We have yet another Hillsborough County agency fighting against the tides of change and modernization.
TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s Civil Service Board will consider on Tuesday spending $75,000 to lobby state legislators against a proposal that would strip the board of some of its power over county employees.

The proposal pits the civil service board against 21 elected and appointed agencies, from the children’s board to the county commission.
Like the wasteful Public Transit Commission (see here, here, here and here), the Civil Service Board was created by the state legislature (in the 1950s!).  Like the PTC, Hillsborough County is unique in the state with such a board.

How did the other counties get by without these agencies?  Yet somehow they've survived.
Civil service board Director Dane Petersen said his agency saves taxpayers money by centralizing the kind of human resources activities that each of its 21 clients would have to do themselves.

“There’s a lot of economy of scale that comes with us,” Petersen said.
There is also a lot of bureaucracy and inefficiencies from centralization in any organization.  Delegation to those actually responsible for the outcomes leads to more timely and less costly decision making. Who knows better about the skills and resources needed at a particular agency than those who work at it every day?

Hillsborough County commissioners had good reason to vote unanimously to pursue legislation loosening civil service controls over government workers, and the Civil Service Board should not use county tax dollars to fight the plan.

Hillsborough is the only county in the state with such an elaborate civil service system, and the evidence is strong that a restructuring is in order.
Board members also should remember no one is talking about getting rid of civil service.

But its extensive reach is no longer necessary or appropriate.
Nothing like this would ever happen int he private sector.  It the mission changes, or new inefficiencies need to be introduced to be competitive, it happens.  If you fight the change, you're gone.  Be a team player.  Don't fight the boss.  But you can fight the boss in the public sector.

Like the PTC the Civil Service Board is considering hiring a lobbyist for the state legislature to help save its hide. Since both agencies were created by the state, they can set up their defenses in Tallahassee to protect themselves.

Unlike the PTC, the Civil Service Board is totally funded with your direct tax dollars. 

Your tax dollars at work, paying lobbyists, protecting civil servants from serving you more effectively. 

I should note the PTC does not get its money directly from taxpayers, but from the public transportation companies it regulates... taxis, limos, ambulances... which of course are paid by you... under the power of the law of the state.  A distinction without a difference.  

Your fee dollars at work, paying lobbyists, protecting civil servants from serving you more effectively. 

Here we are with 2 county agencies that no one else in the state needs are fighting us so they can continue to provide overpriced services we don't need.

This is yet another proof of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy 
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
The PTC and Civil Service Board are protecting their own turf at the expense of their mission and their customers.


Updated. Fixed a typo on the title.


  1. The BOCC and Mike Merrill want to be able to have the flexibility to hire and fire without recourse, and pay their friends and family whatever they want. The taxpayers should be outraged that they want to disband and dissovle the Civil Service oversight. Who will watch the henhouse when Civil Service is gone--The Fox!

  2. La Gaceta Editorial (within “As We Heard It”)
    October 18, 2013
    by Patrick Manteiga
    Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank was not happy with our editorial last week opposing
    legislation allowing her agency, along with 21 others, to opt out of Civil Service Board Service.
    Our big worry is the return to patronage. Without checks and balances, we believe friends and
    family will be first in line for county jobs.
    Ms. Frank counters that she has an anti‐nepotism policy that is stronger than Civil Service’s
    and her policies are open to the public for all to see.
    Her policy isn’t that easy to see. It’s not on the Internet; it’s on their intranet, so no one can
    easily see it. Her nepotism policy isn’t even in the employee handbook, which she sent to me.
    The policy is given to applicants and was difficult to find. It is the State’s policy with an
    expanded definition of what constitutes a relative and there is plenty of room to declare that
    the relationship causes no conflict.
    We are glad the Clerk of the Circuit Court has an expanded policy, but our concerns don’t end
    there. We believe that if agencies are left to their own means for recruitment, diversity will
    suffer. That means fewer Hispanics and Blacks will be hired.
    Ms. Frank has 674 classified employees. Classified employees are recruited and screened by
    Civil Service Board Service. The skills necessary for their job are quantified and coded by Civil
    Service. Out of the 674 classified employees, 55 percent are minorities, with 32 percent Black
    and 20 percent Hispanic.
    The Clerk has 62 unclassified employees. These are employees recruited by the Clerk’s Office.
    She can hire and fire them at will and basically pay them anything she wants. These are the
    highest paying jobs.
    Only 24 percent of these unclassified hires are minorities, with 13 percent Black and eight
    percent Hispanic. These numbers are far below the county’s population.
    The Clerk’s Office, when left to its own devices, hires 50 percent fewer minorities than it does
    when working within the Civil Service structure.
    Legislators such as Janet Cruz, Betty Reed, Darryl Rouson, and Arthenia Joyner should be
    concerned with supporting any bill that would allow county agencies to opt out of Civil Service.