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Union Chief OKs James’ Job—For 3 Months

by Paul Bass | Jan 7, 2014 1:09 pm

(16) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Labor

Paul Bass Photo Mayor Toni Harp will get to hire Jackie James after all as her number-two social services chief—until April 15.

James will at that point not have a guaranteed position. In the meantime, she will not receive medical benefits or other union perks.

That’s the conclusion of the new Harp administration’s first brush with organized labor.

The dispute concerned an appointment Mayor Harp made: of Democratic Town Chairwoman Jackie James to serve as deputy community services administrator (CSA), the number-two City Hall position in charge of programs for the homeless, the hungry, the young, and the poor. James worked as a state social worker for 15 years. Harp elevated Ron Manning, who had the deputy CSA job, to the top position on an “acting” basis while Harp seeks a permanent person for the position; she’s wooing a former Connecticut-based early-childhood expert who has since moved to Georgia.

Harp said after her inauguration last Wednesday that she had appointed James to the deputy job. James’ name and title went up on the door of an office on City Hall’s second floor.

The office remained dark on Friday, James’ assigned first day. That’s because Cherlyn Poindexter, president of ASCME Local 3144, which represents city government management workers, objected to the appointment as a violation of the union’s contract. The deputy job is a civil-service position. It falls under Poindexter’s union.

Then Harp announced James would serve in the role in an “acting” capacity, starting Monday. Monday the office remained dark. Tuesday morning, too. As officials met with Poindexter.

Poindexter told the Independent in an interview Wednesday that the union contract forbids the Harp administration from simply hiring James for the position on an “acting” basis, either. The contract spells out that only existing union members, who have passed a civil-service exam, may fill an open job on an “acting” basis.

So she and Harp administration officials drew up an agreement under which James may hold the position temporarily, until April 15 at the latest, on a “subcontract,” without full employee benefits, Poindexter said. The agreement, signed and effective as of Tuesday, includes a stipulation that once Harp fills the permanent number-one spot in community services, Manning may return to the deputy job again, replacing James.

And if Manning decides to retire instead?

Then James (pictured) would have to apply for the job through the normal civil-service process.

“My duty is to protect Ron Manning,” Poindexter said Tuesday.

Also, she said of the deputy position, “the work is our work. Union work. She cannot just give away our jobs to outsiders.”

Scott Nabel of City Hall’s labor relations office, who handled the matter for the Harp administration, confirmed the agreement Tuesday. He said James will be paid at a rate of $77,644 a year while in the position. The agreement does not name James; it gives the administration the union’s OK to subcontract the position until a new CSA chief comes in, or until April 15. It also spells out that Ron Manning will continue paying union dues while in the acting CSA chief’s position and can return to the deputy position any time he chooses.

Nabel said he has kept administration officials apprised of his talks with Poindexter on the matter since they began last week.

City Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden Wednesday affirmed the new administration’s “commitment that we have harmonious relations with labor and that the city follows all rules and laws.”

Poindexter, whose union endorsed Harp’s mayoral campaign this past year, called the episode a “misconception,” not a willful violation of a union contract.

“I think there has to be a better dialogue between us,” Poindexter said. “A lot of people don’t know what the rules are. They [Harp officials] came from the state [government], which is a whole different way of doing things.”

Poindexter added that she had asked to serve on Harp’s transition team, before her inauguration. She didn’t end up on the list.

“There was nobody there from labor,” Poindexter observed. As a result, she said, “this is what happened. Nobody knows what the rules are.”

Ron Manning said last week that he had met with Poindexter and said he had no problem with the arrangement. He declined further comment Tuesday.

Asked about the controversy on Friday, Harp called Poindexter a “good leader” who strives to protect her members.

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posted by: robn on January 7, 2014  2:05pm

Unless I’m mistaken, the city charter doesn’t give Ms Poindexter the right to approve a civil service position; that approval belongs to the civil service board.

ARTICLE XXX. PERSONNEL AND CIVIL SERVICE
Sec. 174. Filling vacancies when no list of eligibles exists.

When no civil service list of eligibles exists for a particular class, the personnel director with the approval of the civil service board may fill any vacancy in such class by a temporary appointment for not more than ninety days and within that period the civil service board shall hold examinations of candidates for the class.

posted by: inGodwetrust on January 7, 2014  2:23pm

Ms. Poindexter is a good example of a true die hard union president. She was in it to win it and she did. She is about saving the jobs for the union members. She had my vote. Good work Ms. Poindexter. As Mayor Harp said she is a good leader who strives to protect her members.

posted by: DRAD on January 7, 2014  2:27pm

Good gosh - we’re a week into the Harp administration and our new leadership team can’t even name a “Deputy Services Community Administrator” without making a mess.  One of the big (and frankly, sanctimonious) knocks against Elicker was that he didn’t have enough of the contacts needed to staff City Hall properly - an argument employed by both Harp and Fernandez supporters.  Yet here were are. . .the same gang that couldn’t successfully file the Town Committee endorsement can’t even dole out a patronage job. Is this group comprised of rank amateurs or are they just plain incompetent?

posted by: FacChec on January 7, 2014  3:08pm

Robn:

According to Poindexter “the union contract spells out that only existing union members, who have passed a civil-service exam, may fill an open job on an “acting” basis”.

“So she and Harp administration officials drew up an agreement under which James may hold the position temporarily, until April 15 at the latest, on a “subcontract,” without full employee benefits, Poindexter said. The agreement, signed and effective as of Tuesday, includes a stipulation that once Harp fills the permanent number-one spot in community services, Manning may return to the deputy job again, replacing James”.

Temporaily, they are skirting the charter provisions by signing a “subcontract” until April 15th.
The question is will James agree? I think not.

posted by: robn on January 7, 2014  3:23pm

FAC,

It may be the case that the city’ s contract with the union says that the city can only to hire acting directors from a pool of existing union members who have passed a civil-service exam. That doesn’t mean that Ms Poindexter has the AUTHORITY to “approve” or reject the hire. Its simply means that Ms Poindexter can file a grievance if the city violates their contract.
In any case (contractual or not; acting or permanent), the hire can’t be hired until the Civil Service Board approves the hire.
That’s how I read the charter anyway. I’m not an attorney but there doesn’t seem to be any ambiguity in that language.

posted by: Threefifths on January 7, 2014  4:18pm

The union should have said no to this deal.This is the same Jackie James who with the rest of the BOA voted to take away Medical Benfits from Park workers who Retire.

posted by: Hill South on January 7, 2014  4:52pm

Good work Ms. Poindexter. It would have served the transition team (and the city) well had you been appointed to serve on it.

posted by: robn on January 7, 2014  5:11pm

One thing Ms. Poindexter got right is that, “Nobody knows what the rules are.” Including her. When will the Civil Service Board be convened on the matter?

posted by: Bobbe Bellamy on January 7, 2014  5:38pm

Technically Ron Manning"s job isn’t vacant.  What normally would happen in a situation like this - Ron would hold two positions.  His position as well as the acting position.  Same instance as Jennifer Pugh.  She’s acting CAO as well as her deputy position.  That would be the (a) reason why it isn’t a CSB matter.  If the Administration wasn’t trying to create a job for Ms James, then this conversation wouldn’t even be an issue.

posted by: Threefifths on January 7, 2014  5:39pm

posted by: robn on January 7, 2014 4:11pm

One thing Ms. Poindexter got right is that, “Nobody knows what the rules are.” Including her. When will the Civil Service Board be convened on the matter?

Why have you not file charges with the Civil Service Board.

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on January 7, 2014  9:18pm

Ms. Poindexter: Thank you for making it blatantly obvious that it is the unions that control New Haven, and not the residents or their elected officials. I also want to thank you for fueling the recent upheaval in the BOA and providing the impetus for a new yet unannounced movement that is taking hold in New Haven.

posted by: 3144member on January 7, 2014  11:53pm

So, if Ron Manning does not return to his position will the city wait until the end of Ms. James contract to post the position? Current city contractors receive no benefits: no health, no vacation, no sick, or personal time. What if current members who already have taken the civil service exam are interested and qualified for the position?  I believe it is standard for new employees to have a ninety business day probation during which time the employee does not receive benefits. Why would Ms. James want a job with two weeks vacation and pay far less than she currently earns?  I am glad the union is addressing this choice as a civil service and process issue. It is not a reflection on Ms. James but on the manner in which a non - appointed job is being handled.

posted by: citoyen on January 8, 2014  1:02am

A hiccup to start.  They’ll find their sea legs.

But in the meantime, this is delicious to watch.  April 15 would be safely beyond the date of the special election needed to fill Toni Harp’s state senate seat, yes?

So the plan has been to move Jackie James safely out of the way, so that Gary Holder-Winfield can easily slide into the senate seat, as thanks for falling on his sword by withdrawing from the mayor’s race and endorsing Toni—after Toni had stabbed him in the back by all but endorsing him, and then suddenly announcing that *she* would be running for mayor herself.

But Toni owes Jackie big time, too, for helping to recruit her into the mayor’s race by guaranteeing her the support of the Democratic Town Committee, of which Jackie has been the chair.  Jackie needs her reward, too.

But Jackie is now out in the cold—having agreed to withdraw from the senate race, and having agreed not to run again as head of the DTC.  What will the Harp administration do for her, besides the promise of just some temporary, benefits-less, pigeon-hole job?  Will Jackie, in anger, now still try to run for the senate?  Will she try to maintain control of the DTC?  I’ve had only limited exposure to her, but she does not strike me as someone who will not demand that to which she is entitled.

Oh, the complications!

Makes me wonder if I’d *really* like to see reform of the Democratic Party power structure in this city.  It can be so entertaining to watch as it is.

posted by: robn on January 8, 2014  9:47am

3/5,

The reason why I haven’t filed charges with the Civil Service Board is because they don’t govern Ms Poindexter’s actions or the actions of the Mayor; they are simply the only body with the authority to “approve” this hire. The BOA writes our laws and should be the body which asks the mayor to follow it; if she hasn’t figured that out already.
To be fair, Ms Poindexter has the right to squawk if she wants to and if she wants to lend the unions consent to this that’s fine; approval? no.

posted by: Threefifths on January 8, 2014  10:53am

How do you all explain this.Before the so call union took over,How come the same things were going on under The Old Guard.Also the election is in two years.Are any of you running for seats.

posted by: robn on January 8, 2014  11:58am

3/5,

We don’t have to explain it. Now is now and the law is the law.

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