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Nutter names new BRT chief, creates "open exam" to retain patronage workers

As reported in this morning's Inquirer, Mayor Nutter has just announced Richard Negrin as his choice for interim executive director of the Board of Revision of Taxes.

Nutter also laid out his plan for dealing with the roughly 80 patronage employees now working as at the agency, saying it was his view that they must move off the School District payroll and become city workers, thereby making them ineligible for political activities, such as being a ward leader or campaigning for local candidates.

In order to keep their positions, the BRT clerks will be subject to what Nutter described as an open civil service exam.

The catch, and it is a big one, is that only employees who have experience working as clerks in government property assessing agencies will be eligible to sit for the test.

In other words, it's a test that's limited to the pool of existing patronage workers at the BRT, plus clerks at assessing agencies in other counties who would be willing to move to Philadelphia for a relatively low-paying job. Somehow, it is hard to imagine a tidal wave of applicants with clerical assessment experience from Chester, Bucks and Camden counties applying to take the tests.

Nevertheless, Nutter rejected suggestions from reporters that the test qualifications were rigged to ensure that the BRT patronage workers kept their job. And, like City Council last week, he vigorously defended the reputations of the BRT's patronage workers, who he says have been unfairly attacked in recent months.

"The experience that these individuals have acquired should be recognized, should be respected and certainly should be part of the criteria for any civil service test that's being put together," Nutter said. "I think its quite unfortunate how some of these individuals have been characterized and their experiences minimized."

When asked if the city would still fund as many as 80 clerk positions, Nutter said he could not "prejudge" how many posts will need to be filled, and that an assessment of staffing needs would be part of Negrin's job.

The exam will likely be administered in March, said Albert L. D'Attillio, the city's director of human resources.

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