Court knocks down Christie’s patronage plan

A three-member state appellate court on Thursday put the kibosh on the Christie administrations changes to the civil service system’s procedures in handing out promotions.

christie-obs-450.jpgFor years, Christie has been pushing for changes that would essentially dismantle protections for civil service workers, and the Democratic-led legislature has been pushing back. Over numerous opposing votes by the legislature over the years, however, Christie went ahead with the changes, which critics, political figures and workers all claimed were designed to bring back patronage and political cronyism at the expense of competent and dedicated workers.

The civil service system was established after the Civil War to counter the prevailing “spoils” system under which public sector jobs were awarded to those with close political, business or familial relations to those in office. Jobs and promotions were instead to be awarded on the basis of test results and performance markers.

Christie, however, instituted a system in New Jersey under which workers were organized into “job bands”—people with roughly the same responsibilities—under a supervisor who could then promote from within the band without regard to objective criteria. The legislature voted to ban the system twice, but the Republican administration would make a few minor technical changes in order to continue.