SALEM — Mayor Kim Driscoll wants to remove the police and fire chiefs from civil service.
Following the lead of other communities, Driscoll has asked the City Council to adopt a home rule petition that would allow a mayor to hire chiefs from inside or outside the department and give more latitude in firing a chief.
“... Limiting our choices to solely in-house candidates does not make sense and is not something we do with any other high-ranking position in the city,” she wrote in a letter submitted to the Council Thursday night.
Before the meeting, the mayor contacted the police and fire unions to notify them of her intentions.
“It was expected,” said police Lt. Jim Walker, president of the Superior Officers Union. “We’re reviewing our options.”
Firefighter Ray Krajeski, president of the Salem Firefighters Union, said the union wants more information before taking a stand. He said he would like to sit down with the mayor and the heads of other unions to discuss the issue.
Krajeski did, however, express some concern.
“I just don’t want to see a good qualified person that comes from within not afforded an opportunity to take a leadership role for the department,” he said.
Driscoll said the request is “identical to actions taken by both Beverly and Peabody recently, and would allow myself or future mayors to select a candidate for the chiefs’ positions based on a more robust and informative set of criteria than Civil Service scores alone, should there be a vacancy.”
In her letter, Driscoll said there are no immediate or anticipated openings, and stressed that the city has two “highly qualified” leaders in fire Chief Dave Cody and police Chief Paul Tucker, both of whom were hired through civil service.
Under current rules, a new chief is chosen from among the top three candidates based on scores on a civil service exam.
“Adoption of the attached petition would allow future mayors to use a multitude of measures to evaluate candidates, expand their options to select the best candidate and also allow them to terminate a poorly performing chief,” Driscoll wrote.
The City Council sent the proposal to its committee of the whole. If adopted, the measure would go the state Legislature for approval.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.