The city's departed personnel director inappropriately manipulated the merit-based Civil Service examination process in an attempt to benefit a favored employee, Mayor Nutter's office said yesterday.

Inspector General Amy Kurland's office determined that acting Personnel Director Tanya Smith had interfered with a citywide test for management trainees after learning that a favored employee in the Personnel Department, a woman who was not identified, had not passed the exam.

Kurland said that Smith canceled the written part of the exam after determining that her favorite had scored poorly. The rankings were based only on the subjective, oral part of the exam.

Smith defied a call from investigators last fall to freeze the promotion list while the investigation was under way, and "individuals were promoted from this list who may have had an unfair advantage," the mayor's office said in a news release.

Neither Kurland nor her predecessor, R. Seth Williams, could say how many promotions were made throughout the city based on the corrupted list.

Williams, a lawyer who was inspector general during Mayor John F. Street's last three years in office, said he was "almost positive" that Smith's favored employee did not get promoted.

The Civil Service examination process is supposed to ensure that promotions in the government bureaucracy are made on the basis of merit.

"When something like this happens, the entire system is jeopardized," Williams said.

The inspector general sent her report to the Civil Service Commission and recommended it remove Smith and bar her from Civil Service positions for five years.

Smith, 49, a 19-year city employee who was paid $128,153, resigned on Wednesday - before the Civil Service Commission took final action.

Smith, who was appointed to the post during the Street administration, has been unavailable for comment.

"While I am saddened to learn of any wrongdoing by city employees, I am pleased that Inspector General Kurland's office has been successful in identifying and rooting out unethical behavior," Nutter said in a news release. "The vast majority of city workers are honest, hardworking people, but the city still needs an autonomous watchdog to weed out bad actors."

Smith's transgressions went beyond manipulating the test process, Kurland said.

The personnel director obstructed the investigation by making false statements to investigators and by directing her subordinates to be untruthful to investigators, Kurland said.

Williams said the investigation began early last fall after his office had received complaints about the test process. He said Street was aware of the investigation.

"It's a testament to the hard work of the investigators in the office," he said. "A lot of people didn't want to cooperate because they thought they would be fired."

The Personnel Department recently has emerged as a major irritant for the Nutter administration, which had expressed frustration with the slow pace of the department's hiring.

The Philadelphia Prison System, for example, has 183 vacant correctional-officer positions. One reason, Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla said, is the nearly one-year period that Civil Service rules require applicants to wait between test-taking and actual hiring.

Contact staff writer Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947 or amaykuth@phillynews.com.