Civil Services Commissioners to Look at LBPD Sergeant Exam Rule Violations

By: 
Stephen Downing

On Oct. 31 the Beachcomber published the results of this newspaper’s investigation into possible collusion between the LBPD and Civil Service Departments, based upon multiple complaints received from LBPD officers.

The officers alleged that the 2021 sergeant examination was fixed as a result of collusion between the Civil Service and Police Departments to allow cronies who failed the written portion to proceed to the subjective portions – graded by department insiders. This was achieved by reducing the required passing score of the objective written exam from 70 to 60 (a violation of Civil Service rules) while failing to make equal grading adjustments to the other two subjective parts of the examination.

The details of that investigation and the City Hall gymnastics to avoid a direct and honest response to the Beachcomber question – “Was Civil Service Rule Section 13 violated?” – was published under the headline: Was the LBPD Sergeant Exam Fixed? It can be read here: https://beachcomber.news/content/was-lbpd-sergeant-exam-fixed

Investigation Continues

City Hall’s response to the questions raised about the administration of the sergeant examination was essentially stonewalled, so we decided to test just how independent and effective the “checks and balances” of civilian oversight may be.

On Nov. 2 a letter of demand was sent to Joen Garnica, president of the Civil Service Commission, and copied to each of the fellow Garcia-appointed civilian commissioners – Brandon Dowling, Phyllis Arias, Susana Gonzalez Edmond and Yvonne Wheeler.

The content of that letter follows:

“Dear Commissioner Garnica:

As you know I have attempted to obtain clarity on an alleged violation of Civil Service Rule Section 13 with regard to the 2021 examination for LBPD sergeant of police.

The Civil Service Department has obfuscated rather than clearly answered the question posed: Was Civil Service Rule Section 13 violated with regard to the written 100 question multiple-choice portion of the 2021 sergeant examination by allowing candidates scoring less than 70 correct answers to proceed to the other parts of the examination?

The question is asked once again in this correspondence because there was no record or document produced as result of a Public Records Act (PRA) request asking for documents that supported any kind of waiver authorized by the Civil Service Commission to suspend the rule for the 2021 sergeant examination.

Numerous candidates have alleged that the rule was in fact violated.

The Civil Service Department’s response has been to offer that any candidate may protest to the commission. As it happens each of the candidates who have complained fear retaliation from the LBPD if they in fact appear and protest the examination. It has also been made clear to me that the LBPOA will not step up and represent their membership in this matter.

Therefore – as a citizen concerned with the fairness of the process to promote excellence in the supervisory ranks of the LBPD – I am writing to request that the Board of Civil Service Commissioners exercise their power and duty under Article XL, Section 1101 (b) of the City Charter and conduct an independent investigation into the enforcement of Rule Section 13 as applied to the 2021 examination for sergeant of police.

I look forward to your response.”

Response Delayed

This writer waited for a response to the Nov. 2 letter until Nov. 19 and then wrote a follow-up email to Christina Winting, executive director of the Civil Service Department, with a copy to Garnica.

“On November 2, I sent a letter - c/o your department – to the Board of Civil Service Commissioners formally requesting that the commission exercise their chartered duty to conduct an investigation into a violation of Commission Rule Section 13 as applied to the 2021 examination for police sergeant.

Was the letter distributed to all members of the commission – as provided – and when will the matter be placed on the commission’s agenda for appropriate action?

It is my allegation that Article III of Civil Service Rule Section 13 – Grading of Examinations – as adopted by the Civil Service Commission was violated in the administration and certification of the 2021 police sergeant examination by allowing candidates scoring less than 70 correct answers on the 100-word, multiple-choice examination to proceed to the next step in the examination process, a violation of Section 13.

Therefore, it is demanded that this allegation be investigated as required by Sec. 1101 subsection (b) of the City Charter that provides: The powers and duties of the Civil Service Commission shall be to “make independent investigations concerning the enforcement of this article and the rules adopted – and to (h) Enforce and remedy violations of Commission rules.

If there is any procedural error relative to this demand for investigation and remedy, please advise how I may correct such error so that this matter can officially be made the subject of a charter authorized, duty-related investigation by the Board of Civil Service Commissioners.”

Winting Responds

Three days later (Nov. 22) Winting responded via email: “You should be receiving an email from President Garnica through the Civil Service Executive assistant Maria Camerino.”

Minutes later Camerino sent an email advising, “We received your letter, which was sent to the entire commission. Attached is a response from President Garnica.”

Garnica’s Response

The letter from Commission President Joen Garnica attached to Camerino’s Nov. 22 email was dated Nov. 11. It read:

“Dear Mr. Downing,

The Civil Service Commission is in receipt of your letter dated, November 2, 2021. In response to your request to have the Civil Service Commission conduct an independent investigation into the enforcement of Article III, Section 13 of the Civil Service Rules and Regulations, as applied to the 2021 examination for police sergeant, the commission will look into it. The findings will be presented at a Civil Service Commission meeting before the end of the year.”

The letter was copied to each of Garnica’s fellow commissioners.

Special Meeting Scheduled

On Dec. 2 this writer received an email from Marla Camerino, executive assistant to Winting, which provided scheduling information regarding a “special meeting to discuss the 2021 police sergeant examination.”

The email specified the meeting of the Civil Service Commission will be convened on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 9 a.m.

Duty of Civil Service Commissioners

According to the City Charter the duty of the Civil Service Commissioners – as supported by their oath of office – is not to “look at” or “discuss” the allegations but to conduct an independent investigation and enforce and remedy the Commission Rule that requires a score of 70 or better on each part of the examination.

Civil services rules are intended to create fair and equal opportunities for all employees.

Remedy Proposed

When asked for comment as to a proper remedy to correct the violation, one of the high-scoring written and oral candidates who didn’t make the final list said: “I wanted to thank you first for continuing to pursue this matter.  I’ve asked several people who did not make the list, more than once, if they would be willing to grieve the test as a group, and no one wants to put their neck out there, even collectively. There’s just too much fear of retaliation from management.”

The candidate continued: “That being said, I feel the best remedy to the situation would be to average all of the scores and let the chips fall where they may. Ideally, I would like to see them use the raw scores from the written as well, and not the adjusted scores, so the playing field is truly equal.”

Former POA Board Member Responds

When notified of the special Civil Service meeting and asked what he saw as an appropriate remedy if the commission sustains a violation of the rule, a former board member of the Long Beach Police Officer’s Association (LBPOA) – who provided insight to the original Beachcomber article on this subject – wrote:

“The Issue I see is that unless they (Civil Service) admit that people failed the written test there is no solution. The commission would have to acknowledge that employees were not held to the objective standard but then later held to a subjective standard; benefiting employees they wanted to promote.

This admission would mean they violated the entire purpose of a Civil Service testing process opening the city up to lawsuits. I don’t think they will admit they violated the rules.

The city, its labor organizations, and commissions are all so corrupt that unless they are dismantled there is no way to fix it. It’s too bad the DA is only invested in the social justice movement and not the real enemy of the people – corruption.”

Official Agenda

On Dec. 3 this writer was notified by Camerino that the Civil Service Commission agenda for its special meeting on Dec. 7 was available on the city website.

The agenda item is titled: “2021 Police Sergeant Examination Review.”

The documents that accompany the agenda item include notification, requirements to qualify and examination processes intended for the candidate’s information as well as position specifications.

The one item related to the rule violations alleged is a Job Bulletin announcing the examination which includes the statement: “Candidates must achieve a minimum score of 70 in each component of the examination process to be placed on the eligible list.”

There are no reports or documents attached to the agenda that are related to any investigation of the allegations – or recommended remedies – to the alleged rule violations.

The agenda indicates that only four of the five commissioners will attend, reducing the possibility of a quorum. Commission Vice President Brandon Dowling – whose day job is chief of staff for the Pacific6 organization – is not listed on the agenda.

[Editor’s Note: Pacific6 owns the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal. Dowling serves as spokesperson for Community Hospital of Long Beach, which is struggling to survive in partnership with the City of Long Beach and Pacific6.]

The agenda provides for public comment prior to and after the commission conducts the “2021 Police Sergeant Examination Review.”

The full agenda for the special meeting on Dec. 7 is available by clicking here. The eComment capability on the web site was not operative at the time of publication.

The special meeting will be held on Dec. 7 at 9 a.m. via Teleconference. The public can participate via Web Link: https://longbeach-gov.zoom.us/j/98452170853. Phone: (213) 338-8477 / Meeting ID: 984 5217 0853

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

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Comments

Corruption lurks in every LB city department encouraged and assisted by the LBPD and the city attorneys office, with the blessing of the city council. ill say it again until it happens the Fed's need to come in and clean this up. SMH

I agree with your comment about the corruption within the LB city departments but as far as bringing in the Feds do you believe they would resolve anything for they are just as corrupt as the LBPD and city attorneys office is in my opinion....

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