Easton can now appoint a deputy chief chief without going through the reviews required under the city’s civil service regulations.
City council on Wednesday voted 5-1 to make the change, over the objections of Councilman Peter Melan. Councilman James Edinger was absent.
The change is based on city Solicitor Joel Scheer’s 2019 opinion that the deputy chief, like the chief, can be excluded from the civil service process. State law is unclear on whether civil service rules apply to the promotion of the chief, who would be selected from a pool of candidates previously vetted through civil service, Scheer said.
The change also streamlines the process to bring a deputy chief on without having to convene the city’s civil service commission, city Administrator Luis Campos said.
Easton Fire Chief Henry Hennings said he wants to appoint a deputy chief as the department’s second-in-command, who would be involved in strategic planning and administrative decisions and be able to step in to lead the department should the chief become injured, fall ill or die.
Melan argued that any fire position below chief should be subject to civil service rules to remove any appearance or threat of nepotism. He made a similar argument two years ago when council delayed a vote on eliminating the written civil service examination for a deputy fire chief promotion.
Under the new system, which the civil service commission endorsed, the administrator will appoint the deputy chief at the chief’s recommendation based on an oral interview or series of interviews.
In other Easton hiring news, the city brought on as information technology director Mazen Fares to succeed Frank Caruso, who retired, and Kevin McCarthy as recreation supervisor, a position the city defunded in the face of a COVID-19 budget shortfall last year.
Council’s discussion on the change to civil service rules can be viewed beginning around minute-marker 44:00 in video from Wednesday’s meeting.
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Kurt Bresswein may be reached at email@example.com.