The North Carolina state House passed a bill creating civil service review boards in Greensboro and Winston-Salem on Wednesday, April 26.
The board would hear complaints from employees about demotions or termination and could overrule those actions. An appeal of a decision made by the Civil Service Review Board would be heard by the Guilford County Superior Court.
Winston-Salem had a number of speakers opposing the bill and an amendment that didn’t pass was offered to remove Winston-Salem from the bill.
Greensboro Police Chief John Thompson and Fire Chief Jim Robinson raised concerns about the bill, and an amendment proposed by District 57 state Rep. Ashton Clemmons, which was accepted, altered the appointment process. The amendment took one of the appointments to the Civil Service Review Board away from the City Council and gave it to the police chief and fire chief.
So, the amended bill has the City Council appointing one member to the review board, the police chief and fire chief together making one appointment, the city employees making two appointments and the four appointed members selecting a fifth member.
Greensboro did not have anyone at the committee hearings to speak against the bill itself, despite the fact that the majority of the City Council is reportedly opposed to the creation of a civil service review board.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “I support the bill but the majority of council does not.”
She said that the Civil Service Review Board that is supported by the city employees association had been in the works for a while. Vaughan said, “Conversation about this started when Jim Westmoreland was city manager. So they have been working on it for a number of years.”
District 59 state Rep. Jon Hardister, who was a primary sponsor of the bill, said that he had heard from several city councilmembers who expressed their opposition to the bill. But that both the Professional Firefighters of Greensboro and the Greensboro Police Officers Association were in favor of the bill.
Hardister said he had heard complaints that the bill was “rushed” through the House. He said that creating the Civil Service Review Board had been discussed for years and House Bill 470 was filed over a month ago. He said, “I don’t think that’s a valid criticism that it was rushed through.”
He said, “There is bound to be some disagreement and dissension. That’s part of the political process. We’re not all going to agree on everything.”
Hardister also noted that the amendment clarified that the Civil Service Review Board would not be involved in hiring process but only hold hearings on demotions and terminations. He said that it was designed to “add an extra layer of due process.”
House Bill 470 now goes to the state Senate. The bill would become law on passage by the Senate because as a local bill it does not require the signature of the governor.