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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Destroying the PCSC

I have not heard yet heard if the district court will issue a writ of mandamus to force the city of Maplewood to comply with the order of the Police Civil Service Commission to reinstate John Banick as a Lieutenant.

Not being a lawyer, I can't judge the nuance of the law when it comes the proper issuance of a writ of mandamus. Out of my own self-interest as a resident of Maplewood, I hope that Banick's attorney's interpretation of the law is correct. Reinstating Banick would not only be just and uphold the proper role of the PCSC, it would save the city money. Remember, we are hiring four new police officers plus a “public safety director” über-manager this year. Reinstating Banick would just mean hiring three new officers instead of four. The sooner we do it the less back pay we'll be coughing up for time that Banick hasn't been on the job; and the safer our city will be, as we will immediately have another officer on the force. This all seems more important to me than defending the pride and personal revenge agendas of the city manager and council majority.

In January, the judge did say that the termination of Banick appeared improper, since it did not involve the PCSC, regardless of whether or not it was retaliatory; that leads me to believe that the city's arguments about the PCSC having no jurisdiction don't hold a lot of water — they are hanging on a technicality to delay the wheels of justice. Even if Judge Mott agrees with the city that a writ of mandamus is not the appropriate means to enforce the PCSC's decision, that won't be the end of this story. There is too much at stake here. If the city's arguments stand, the role of the commission is gutted, and this would set a precedent with implications far beyond Maplewood.

The city argues that by reinstating Banick as a lieutenant, the PCSC is essentially reorganizing the police department and creating a new lieutenant position, thus usurping the city council's inherent managerial authority. In practice, there would be a reshuffling based on seniority (moving a junior lieutenant to sargeant, a sargeant to patrol officer, and, in our present circumstances, hiring three instead of four new patrol officers this year). The PCSC has not had a chance to follow through on those personnel shifts.

Consider the logical implications of the city's argument. Not only would the PCSC not be able to issue this order in the Banick situation (to reinstate an officer improperly terminated); other PCSC actions actions would be invalidated as well. For example, in a past case cited in the PCSC's order, the commission demoted a police chief to his previous rank of sergeant. Following the logic of the city's current legal argument, the commission had no right to do so because they were effectively creating a new sargeant position, just as in this case they would allegedly be creating a new lieutenant's position.

Again, whether or not there was an open position at the lower level to which an officer was demoted, the PCSC should be able to rearrange others according to seniority to open a position at the appropriate rank; and, if necessary, it could lay off the officer in the department with the least seniority. The city is either pretending ignorance of the PCSC's authority to reassign individuals to different jobs in the department in this manner — or, more likely, it is denying that the PCSC has such authority at all.

In other words, the city seeks to destroy the Police Civil Service Commission as it has heretofore existed. The current city administration is arguing for the PCSC to exist as merely an advisory board, providing an illusion of resident involvement, with all of its decisions subject to review and reversal (or simply to be ignored) if it should please the city manager and city council majority.

Actually dissolving the PCSC would require (according to Minnesota law) either a unanimous decision of the city council or a referendum of the city's voters. Since neither of those is going to happen, the council majority is trying an end run around the law to eliminate a troublesome check against the unfettered exercise of power to which they feel entitled.

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