Ironton City Council debates civil service

Published 10:03 am Friday, February 13, 2009

An agility test necessary to hire two new police officers will not likely be given as scheduled Saturday.

Thursday evening, the Ironton City Council delayed reappointing Joanne McCown back to the three-member civil service commission. Her term expired Dec. 31, 2008. One of the remaining two commission members, Dick Rice, is ill (the third member is Nick McMahon). By law two members of the commission must be present for such tests.

The issue of reappointing McCown promoted some discussion and then a roughly half-hour executive session.

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“If we don’t reappoint McCown we can’t do the test,” councilman Frank Murphy pointed out when the matter came up for discussion. But other council members wanted to know if she and the two other commission members had served the community well.

“Has this group been responsive to your needs?” council member Mike Lutz asked Mayor Rich Blankenship and Police Chief Jim Carey.

Carey said he had nothing against McCown or McMahon or Rice but he would like to see someone appointed to the board who had a law enforcement background, since the civil service board handles the hiring of police officers and firefighters.

Blankenship said the commission had held off scheduling a test for prospective police sergeants until the city got a legal opinion about whether the test should be given. Beth Rist, who was a sergeant, was fired last year by the city but has taken her dismissal to arbitration.

Blankenship said the legal opinion was that the city could indeed give the test in spite of the Rist matter.

The local F.O.P. had filed a grievance against the city because the test had not been scheduled.

Councilman Bob Cleary said after the meeting McMahon could go ahead and start the process to schedule the sergeant’s test since that process usually takes about two months and by then, Rice will have returned to service and the matter with the expired position will be resolved by then.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t be reappointed,” Cleary said. “We just need a little more time.”

When contacted Friday morning, McCown declined to comment on the situation at this time.