In Kusser v. City of Quincy, case #G2-05-318 The civil service commission voted to allow the appeal of bypass for promotion to Lieutenant. After an interview with the mayor and Chief of Police, the appellant was advised he was being bypassed for promotion. When a complaint was filed with the state ethics commission regarding the fact that 3 of the other candidates were relatives of the Mayor a second interview was set up where two other Chiefs were brought in for a 15 minute “re-interview”.
The Civil Service Commission in ruling to overturn the bypass stated “The city has not met its burden of proving that there was reasonable justification for bypassing appellant for the position of Lieutenant. Specifically, the evidence proffered by the respondent, taken together with that offered by the appellant, fails to demonstrate that there was reasonable justification for the action taken by the appointing authority. Rather, those reasons instead, were untrue, applied equally to the successful candidates, were incapable of substantiation, or were a pre-text for another impermissible reason.
The appellant points to a combination of three factors which compel the conclusion that this bypass cannot be sustained: impermissible bias, an indefensible promotion system by the city, and the selective use of discipline. The unacceptable bias that contaminated the process involved the fact that three of the candidates for Lieutenant were relatives of the city mayor. Despite this fact, Mayor Phelan initially interviewed all candidates for the position. Following that interview, Chief Crowley specifically told the appellant that he and the mayor had decided not to promote him. A subsequent interview with the two outside Chiefs merely camouflage the stated intent of the appointing authority.
The bias could have been overcome if the appointing authority had put in place a legitimate, nondiscriminatory, selection process. Instead the selection process, composed of a panel which included Chief Crowley, lacked the requisite structure to eliminate bias and ensure fairness.
Here, one of the panelists, Chief Crowley, knew the appellant and infused the interview process with bias. He took it upon himself to leave the interview and return to it with a folder of a disciplinary incident involving the appellant that was later overturned. There was no standard set of questions asked of all the candidates, there was no scoring system of any kind. Indeed there is no evidence that any of the same questions were asked of all the candidates.”
Interviews are becoming a thing of the past as they can be so easily manipulated and directed toward the preferred candidate. A good attorney can poke a number of holes in an interview process. The Commission if presented with the proper case will see through attempts at manipulating the system. In short, if one side doesn’t know what its doing, it should seek professional assistance.
Attorney Ronald A. Sellon