With the deadline more than a month away to submit applications for spring civil service exams, the El Dorado police and fire departments are preparing to step up recruitment efforts.
Civil service exams, promotional and entry-level, are slated for April 2-4. The deadline to submit applications for both departments is 4 p.m. March 23.
Fire Chief Chad Mosby said one application has been submitted for the El Dorado Fire Department so far.
Just prior to the start of an El Dorado Civil Service Commission meeting Monday, Mosby said he heard some discouraging news while attending a recent fire chiefs’ conference.
“The trend is that recruitment is down with fire departments all over the state. People just don’t want to go into public service,” Mosby said.
Commissioner Rodney Peevy said many potential firefighter recruits are opting for higher paying jobs in the private sector.
Mosby said two positions are open in the fire department, adding that El Dorado firefighter Lt. Scotty Points tendered his retirement papers earlier Monday.
Points is stepping down after 23 years — with enough dual service credits to total 28 years — to take a position with a local company, the fire chief said.
“So on this test, I’m looking to hire three people,” Mosby said.
He said the application period had closed for firefighters to apply for promotional exams, telling commissioners that one had applied for the assistant chief’s test, three for the captain’s test and eight for the lieutenant engineer’s test.
White somberly told commissioners that a position opened up last week in the El Dorado Police Department with the sudden death of Cpl. William Shannon Griffin.
Griffin passed away on Jan. 29 after a brief illness. He had been with the EPD for 15 years, serving as a patrol officer and detective.
“I’ve had two calls from two former certified officers who are interested in coming back. I’ll probably fill that position with a certified officer,” White said.
He said the EPD has received requests to send out six applications for the spring civil service exams in April.
Rules and regulations
In other business, commissioners are continuing to review local civil service rules and regulations for amendments.
White said he had looked through the existing policies, and he did not have any recommendations for changes regarding police department operations.
He suggested that commissioners proceed with efforts to clean up language pertaining to police and fire department employees seeking elective office.
Commissioners have been considering the issue since Sgt. Chris Lutman announced in December that he is running for mayor this year, particularly since he will be facing incumbent Mayor Frank Hash.
The existing civil service rules state that police officers and firefighters “shall not be connected with any campaign or political management except to cast a vote and express personal opinions privately.”
The rule, Section 12, also prohibits employees in either the police or fire department from engaging in politics on an individual basis.
City Attorney Henry Kinslow said state statutes and legal opinions rendered in 2003 and 2014 by former attorneys general Mike Beebe and Dustin McDaniel, respectively, allow officers and firefighters to seek public office.
Commissioners are using recently revised civil service rules from Fort Smith as a guide to help revise local rules.
“We will clean that up,” commission chairman Toddy Pitard told White. “Fort Smith pulled it from their rules. They don’t have it in there at all.”
He distributed copies of the civil service commission mission, which states the “commission is responsible for writing and enforcing rules and regulations governing the fire and police departments.”
Commissioner Janis Van Hook inquired about a clause that says commissioners “shall not hold or be a candidate for any political office under any national, state, county or municipal government, or be connected in any official capacity with any political party or organization.”
Van Hook asked if the rule applied to commissioners’ personal political leanings and activities.
“For instance, what if a candidate comes to me and wants to put a sign in my yard?” she asked.
“As a (former) city employee for 23 years, I didn’t,” said, Peevy, a former firefighter with the EFD.
Peevy said that while he exercised his right to vote during elections, he did not publicly share his political views.
Mosby recommended a separation of civil service rules and regulations between the police and fire departments.
While some apply to both departments, Mosby said splitting the rules between respective departments “makes it easier to make adjustments that are department-specific.”
Pitard said he is getting feedback and guidance from a member of the Fort Smith Civil Service Commission.
Mosby referred to past discussions about possibly increasing the number of commissioners from five to seven.
A brief discussion ensued, during which commissioners voiced their preferences, which were mostly to maintain a five-member commission.
Pitard said they could continue the discussion at a later time.
“We can decide if we want to do it, if we don’t want to do it, if we need to do it, and if we do, we can present it to the (El Dorado City Council),” Pitard said.
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Civil service applications may be picked up from EPD headquarters at 402 N. West Ave. or by calling 870-881-4800.
For the fire department, applications may be picked any fire station of the EFD’s administrative office in City Hall, 204 N. West Ave.
Applications may also be downloaded from the EFD website at www.eldoradofire.org.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.