PITTSFIELD -- The Bianchi administration is creating a task force to consider whether the Civil Service system should be continued for city employees -- particularly for the police and fire chiefs.

Mary McGinnis, the city's director of administrative services, said about a dozen people have been invited to participate in a study or to speak about their experiences in communities that have dropped Civil Service for some or all employees.

Among those invited to speak to the group, she said, are officials from Northampton and Amherst and a representative from Civil Service.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi. "We have reached out to Civil Service and to other people who can come and talk to us. We want to discuss this. We want to hear both the shortcomings and strengths of Civil Service."

Currently, police and firefighters in Pittsfield are under Civil Service, which works to protect government employees from unwarranted discipline or firing and to ensure fairness in hiring.

Both Police Chief Michael J. Wynn and Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski hold positions that are under Civil Service, Bianchi said, but they were appointed as acting or interim chiefs by former Mayor James M. Ruberto and that status continues.

During consideration last year of the new city charter that was adopted on Nov. 5, the charter review study group debated whether to change the status of those posts in the new charter but found the issue too controversial and likely to stimulate opposition to the entire charter overhaul.

Bianchi said at the time that he would initiate further consideration of the issue this year.

Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz said Tuesday he hopes to send a representative familiar with both his city's alternative system and with the lengthy process of leaving Civil Service. The city took its entire police and fire departments out of Civil Service in 2005, he said, after several years of consideration and negotiations with employee unions, followed by a home rule petition to the Legislature.

Today, Northampton conducts its own testing, similar to Civil Service, to establish a pool of candidates for jobs, he said, adding that the format is more flexible than Civil Service and testing is tailored to the city's specific needs.

Some of the problems local officials found with Civil Service, Narkewicz said, were inflexibility on regulations, the lengthy nature of the process and a lack of adequate lists of potential job candidates.

"I believe we've crafted something that meets our needs," he said.

McGinnis said that among those participating in the task force are representatives from the police and fire departments, Personnel Director John DeAngelo, a local attorney, an employment service official and others.

The group has scheduled its first meeting on Jan. 21 at City Hall.

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