Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kevin Wildes is the shadow government

The Lens has more (a lot more) this afternoon on what emails reveal about the relationship between Loyola University President Kevin Wildes and Mayor Landrieu's administration while Wildes served on the city Civil Service Commission.

It's clear from these emails that Wildes joined the commission specifically in order to help Mitch dismantle the Civil Service system which exists to protect city employees from politically motivated interference.
As head of the independent, apolitical Civil Service Commission, Wilde’s primary responsibility was to protect about 3,700 rank-and-file city workers from political meddling. At the least, it should have an arm’s-length relationship with the administration. At its most extreme, some believe the commission should have an adversarial stance toward the city’s political leadership, serving as a shield against favoritism and political shenanigans affecting the workforce.

But the emails from Wildes’ tenure show his relationship with the Landrieu administration to be cozy, deferential and even reliant. This relationship perverted the intent of the commission in some cases, turning it into a panel that at times did the mayor’s bidding.
A few weeks ago, a judge threw out legal challenges to the mayor's "reform" on the maddening grounds that no one had been hurt by it... yet.
Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Julien on Wednesday stymied an effort by three of the city’s largest employee associations seeking to block key provisions of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Great Place to Work Initiative from taking effect. Julien, who denied a temporary injunction against the city, said that the lawsuit was premature because no city employees had yet been harmed by Landrieu’s overhaul to city personnel rules.
But what these communications demonstrate is that the mayor's office is already interfering with the process by which  personnel management policy is developed by the commission.  This, in itself, seems to fly in the face of constitutional intent. 
The commission, which was created by the state constitution, is meant to ensure that city employees are treated fairly and hired and promoted based on achievement. A 1983 state Supreme Court opinion was clear on the intent of the commission, saying those rewriting the new 1974 state constitution clearly believed it should be “safeguarded and removed as far as humanly possible from any form of political influence or any suspicion of political influence or control.”   
According to these emails, however, the mayor's staff intended to reduce the commission's role as a firewall against political mischief to that of an ineffectual "consultant." 
Late in 2011, Kopplin suggested Wildes meet Norton, the administration’s point person on Civil Service changes, and the two began corresponding regularly. Over the next year and right up until the passage of the Great Place to Work Initiative, they worked closely together. The emails suggest they repeatedly violated state sunshine laws.

Norton jumped right in to suggest the administration’s plan, showing Wildes exactly what policy changes the administration had in mind, including giving hiring, promotion and salary-setting authority to department directors — which would essentially “turn civil service into a consultancy.”
It is perverse for the court to demand the disruption or ruination of some hapless employee's life before action can be taken to uphold their constitutional protections. Especially when the intent of the "reform" so blatantly spelled out like this.

Meanwhile entirely by coincidence Loyola University (Wildes' day job, remember) has declined to renew the lease on the space The Lens has been occupying on its campus for the past two years.  So now we know Wildes understands how an administrator utilizes the tool of politically motivated interference.  Maybe he's just demonstrating the value of his gift to the city.

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