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Monday, April 21, 2014

Civil Service Commission elects new leadership
Commission reports its progress to the Legislature

The Civil Service Commission held its first meeting of 2014 on Jan. 23 and 24, with the unanimous election of Herman R. Deleon Guerrero as chair and Felicitas P. Abraham as vice chair for 2014. The commission’s other members are Charles Calvo, Augustina Kukkun, and Eric L. Plinske.

Among the new business the commissioners tackled were:

-Discussion of the government’s internship program for college graduates lacking work experience and how to revitalize the program, which has fallen out of use.

-An initiative to advise the Legislature of the progress made by the commission since its first organizational meeting in December 2012 after the appointment of sufficient commissioners to form a quorum, allowing the effective conduct of business.

-Efforts to obtain federal funding and assistance for human resource training and programs for the commission, staff of the Office of Personnel Management, and other government employees.

-The need to review personnel issues as the frozen annual within-grade increase and promotional increase programs and other matters within the Personnel Service Systems Rules and Regulations.

The commission also reviewed progress made by OPM in resolving the numerous appeals and grievances long on hold due to the previous lack of an appointed quorum. OPM has been able to reach a majority of the appellants and grievants, and is working with them to determine what actions will be needed to resolve their cases.

The commission, in its discussion, noted recent legislative concern with personnel issues brought to their attention and welcomed their interest in limiting political involvement in the personnel and hiring processes and their desire to ensure that government operations were fair to all and, also, more effective for all. The commission pointed out in a letter to the Legislature’s presiding officers that the commission and the Director of Personnel are always available to provide advice and assistance on human resource matters. The development of a mutually assistive relationship will also benefit OPM and the commission by making them aware of the Legislature’s or their constituent’s concerns and to ensure that lawmakers have full and accurate information on the matter.

The commission also assured the Legislature that the employment policies and practices of the government are continuously being reviewed and adjusted as necessary to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of personnel operations. Public Law 17-80, which took effect on Aug. 31, 2012, mandated the commission to promulgate rules and regulations governing employment issues for the government workforce, which includes developing and maintaining fair and non-discriminatory hiring practices.

The commission held its first organizational meeting on Dec. 4, 2012, after being dormant and without a quorum for the past few years.

Since its reactivation, the commission has begun reviewing the government’s main employment policies:

1. The Personnel Service System Rules and Regulations: This document, which regulates employment under the Civil Service System, is currently under review by OPM, after which the draft document will be finalized by the commissioners for final adoption and promulgation.

2. The Excepted Service Regulations: This regulation provides guidance for government contract employment, a category of employment that is not subject to Civil Service rules and regulations. This regulation has been reviewed and updated, and is now being implemented and enforced.

OPM has been tasked by the commission to review and prepare all CNMI employee grievances, to include all pending files that go as far back as 2006. This backlog resulted from the lengthy period of time when the commission lacked enough commissioners to function. Available documents and records are being put together at this time to prepare for an investigation into each case to allow for their resolution.

The commission recognizes that the tasks they face are very challenging, but are currently being addressed. As mentioned above, ensuring that the government follows fair and non-discriminatory hiring and employment practices is a major concern of OPM and the commission. The commission has also committed to enhancing the capabilities of commission members and OPM and its staff through workshops and other trainings.

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