SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 18, 2013

House OKs civil service change

PEABODY — The city’s bid to remove the police and fire chiefs from civil service was approved unanimously yesterday by the House and is now moving to the Senate.

The bill was co-sponsored by state Reps. Leah Cole, R-Peabody, and Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, after the City Council voted 8-1 in April to seek a home-rule petition.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt proposed the change to give the city more options in choosing its chiefs, including a replacement for police Chief Robert Champagne, who was slated to retire June 1. Champagne has agreed to stay on board for the time being.

“It allows the mayor the greatest flexibility to choose the best candidates out there to lead his departments,” Speliotis said.

Speliotis said there are no guarantees when it comes to a bill, but the strong support from the Peabody City Council was one of the reasons it passed unanimously in the House.

Bettencourt has complained that the civil service system locks him into choosing between the three top scorers on a standardized test with few other criteria.

While the new process would allow the mayor to choose a chief from within the police and fire departments, it would also make it easier to invite applicants from outside Peabody.

The mayor could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.

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