SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 6, 2013

Peabody firefighter sues city, Civil Service

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Peabody fire Lt. John Manning isn’t one to take no for an answer.

When he applied for promotion to captain and was passed over in favor of Daniel Dean, Manning appealed the city’s decision to the Civil Service Commission. The commission rejected that appeal in May, and now Manning is suing both the city of Peabody and the Civil Service Commission in an action filed at Superior Court in Salem.

From the start Manning has been represented in this by his sister, former governor’s councilor Mary Ellen Manning.

Manning contends that the city violated Civil Service regulations by promoting Dean because he had been a lieutenant for less than three years. According to the complaint, “the employee promoted had served an insufficient number of years as a lieutenant to sit for the captain’s examination as a matter of law.”

The Civil Service Commission, however, cited various sections of state law in ruling that the intent of the Legislature in passing the regulations was not to bar the promotion of an individual for that reason. Dean’s experience was deemed acceptable.

Manning has served for 20 years as a Peabody firefighter, nine of them as a lieutenant. Dean began his career in 2005, according to Manning’s filing, and was promoted to lieutenant in 2010.

Manning’s complaint argues in more detail that, “because Dean had been certified as a lieutenant for less than three years prior to being promoted to captain, he could only legally get the interdepartmental promotion if there were no other, more experienced lieutenant on the eligibility list for promotion to captain who had also passed the examination.”

Both men passed the examination for captain, but Dean was rated ahead of Manning on the eligibility list for promotion. The final score each received was based on both “a test-taking component and an education and experience component,” according to the complaint.

The filing contends further that the Civil Service ruling ignores its own website, which says a city of more than 50,000 people should require three years of experience before someone can take an examination for promotion. The elevation of Dean over someone with Manning’s experience is described as being unprecedented in Peabody.

“Manning’s substantial rights have been prejudiced,” reads the filing. “Civil Service ignored the plain language of the statutory framework.” The commission’s actions did not give Manning time to make his case, it continues. Their decision is described as “arbitrary and capricious.”

By way of a remedy, the filing asks that Manning be promoted with the next vacancy among senior officers and that he be given back pay as a captain from Oct. 30, 2012.