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Civil Service vote to be on April 16 ballot

The Panama City Beach City Council approved an ordinance last week to revise the duties of the City’s Civil Service Board.

The ordinance, which calls for amending the City’s Charter and Code of Ordinances, requires a vote of the residents. A simple majority of electors voting on the measure is needed to make a change.

Proponents of the change say it will streamline the hiring process by removing the interviewing and vetting of candidates usually done by the Civil Service Board. The change would enable department heads to contact candidates directly and interview and hire them before they have a chance to accept another job. Officials said it is needed especially in a tight job market, adding that most municipalities do not utilize a Civil Service Board for hiring.

Those opposed to the change believe the process as it exists works fine and saves department heads time by having the board produce a short list of capable applicants. The five-member volunteer Civil Service Board recently moved from meeting monthly to twice monthly to help expedite hiring. Under the proposed change, the board would still handle employee grievances and appeals.

The ballot will read:

Whether to repeal the existing Civil Service system and concurrently re-establish it in the City’s Code of Ordinances. Currently, all permanent employees are hired and promoted by a Civil Service Board. If the charter amendment is approved, City staff could expeditiously hire and promote permanent employees according to ordinances, policies and rules adopted by the Council. The Civil Service Board would continue to hear disciplinary appeals.

The election is handled by the Bay County Supervisor of Elections. Election day is April 16, when four Bay County municipalities will be voting on mayors and city council members. For Panama City Beach residents, it will be a single-issue ballot. Frank Brown Park is the polling place and residents will be able to vote by absentee ballot.