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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 18, 2022
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CLASSIFIED VS UNCLASSIFIED A MURKY AREA

There is a strange silence regarding Judge Raymond Finch's order of reinstatement for employees who were hired during the Schneider-Mapp administration and then relieved of their positions by the current administration.
It has been the practice of past administrations to replace unclassified employees of a prior administration with the incoming administration's own choices. This practice was challenged recently on the grounds that employees were terminated due to their political affiliation. Perhaps a major difference between the past and the present is the fact that past administrations avoided using the "disloyalty" word as a reason for dismissing "so-called" unclassified employees.
I use the term "so-called" for the purpose of distinguishing between employees erroneously labeled unclassified because a governor says so and those who according to local law are unclassified because the legislature approved those designations. When this procedure is violated, constitutional issues arise and the federal courts enter.
It is not sufficient to unilaterally use the term unclassified and succeed in enforcing the governor's will against employees.
The consequence of a prior administration's invalid appointments into the unclassified service for patronage purposes and a successor administration's attempt to terminate those appointees at the new governor's discretion, is an invitation for court intervention.
I believe that the District Court's recent intervention has implications for the merit system and the career service based upon practices of the past and recent appointments of the current administration.
– What really is the status of employees of the former Schneider-Mapp administration? If they are not valid unclassified employees, will they be added to the permanent employee roll of the government as career or classified employees?
– Since there has been no challenge to the validity of their original appointments, coupled with the fact that they have all served in government for more than two years as "unclassified" employees, not subject to the will of the governor, will they now take advantage of a provision of personnel law allowing them to elect to become classified?
– How about the employees of the current administration who are not in that limited category of unclassified employees serving at the pleasure of the governor, but who nevertheless are labeled erroneously as being in the unclassified service? After completing at least two years with the current administration, is there not an open door for them to pass through to become career or classified employees before this administration ends?
– Once a flawed appointment is made, how can it be reversed or terminated one day or one year later?
– If it is correct to conclude that the unclassified service is reserved for employees who serve at the pleasure of the governor, who then are the unclassified employees who may elect to become classified after two years of government service? Certainly not those whom the governor may terminate at will! The legislature should revisit these apparently conflicting provisions.
When a position supplement was part of the executive budget submission to the legislature, legislative ratification of the governor's designation of unclassified positions could be inferred by the budget's approval. However, we have departed from including a position listing or supplement as part of the budget process.
The consequence is that employees who were hired originally and temporarily to fill patronage positions appear likely to find themselves in the permanent or classified service in violation of the spirit of merit system principles.
What corrective actions have been taken to ensure that today's problems in this matter are not passed on to a succeeding administration with further incursions into the career service?
"Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them." -Albert Einstein
Editors' note: Gaylord A. Sprauve is a retired public administrator.

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There is a strange silence regarding Judge Raymond Finch's order of reinstatement for employees who were hired during the Schneider-Mapp administration and then relieved of their positions by the current administration.
It has been the practice of past administrations to replace unclassified employees of a prior administration with the incoming administration's own choices. This practice was challenged recently on the grounds that employees were terminated due to their political affiliation. Perhaps a major difference between the past and the present is the fact that past administrations avoided using the "disloyalty" word as a reason for dismissing "so-called" unclassified employees.
I use the term "so-called" for the purpose of distinguishing between employees erroneously labeled unclassified because a governor says so and those who according to local law are unclassified because the legislature approved those designations. When this procedure is violated, constitutional issues arise and the federal courts enter.
It is not sufficient to unilaterally use the term unclassified and succeed in enforcing the governor's will against employees.
The consequence of a prior administration's invalid appointments into the unclassified service for patronage purposes and a successor administration's attempt to terminate those appointees at the new governor's discretion, is an invitation for court intervention.
I believe that the District Court's recent intervention has implications for the merit system and the career service based upon practices of the past and recent appointments of the current administration.
- What really is the status of employees of the former Schneider-Mapp administration? If they are not valid unclassified employees, will they be added to the permanent employee roll of the government as career or classified employees?
- Since there has been no challenge to the validity of their original appointments, coupled with the fact that they have all served in government for more than two years as "unclassified" employees, not subject to the will of the governor, will they now take advantage of a provision of personnel law allowing them to elect to become classified?
- How about the employees of the current administration who are not in that limited category of unclassified employees serving at the pleasure of the governor, but who nevertheless are labeled erroneously as being in the unclassified service? After completing at least two years with the current administration, is there not an open door for them to pass through to become career or classified employees before this administration ends?
- Once a flawed appointment is made, how can it be reversed or terminated one day or one year later?
- If it is correct to conclude that the unclassified service is reserved for employees who serve at the pleasure of the governor, who then are the unclassified employees who may elect to become classified after two years of government service? Certainly not those whom the governor may terminate at will! The legislature should revisit these apparently conflicting provisions.
When a position supplement was part of the executive budget submission to the legislature, legislative ratification of the governor's designation of unclassified positions could be inferred by the budget's approval. However, we have departed from including a position listing or supplement as part of the budget process.
The consequence is that employees who were hired originally and temporarily to fill patronage positions appear likely to find themselves in the permanent or classified service in violation of the spirit of merit system principles.
What corrective actions have been taken to ensure that today's problems in this matter are not passed on to a succeeding administration with further incursions into the career service?
"Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them." -Albert Einstein
Editors' note: Gaylord A. Sprauve is a retired public administrator.