The members of Napa’s Civil Service Commission butted heads last week over the qualifications of former City Councilmember Jim Krider to fill a soon-to-be-vacant position on their board.
Ultimately, they put off the decision after the four voting members reached an impasse. The commission’s two City Council appointees, John Salmon and Paul Hicks, favored Krider, while the two commissioners appointed by city employees, Bill Jabin and Linda Cantillon, did not.
During the Monday meeting, the commission tried to fill the seat of outgoing commissioner Kathy Merritt, a so-called “neutral” member picked by council and employee factions. Her term expires at the end of the month.
After advertising the vacancy, the city received only one application — Krider’s.
The four commissioners were split on whether to appoint Krider or re-advertise the upcoming vacancy at the request of Alex Pader, a candidate in November’s City Council election.
Merritt was not permitted to discuss who will fill her role, so the vote came down to two in favor of Krider and two in favor of re-advertising the vacancy.
Cantillon said Krider has superb experience, but said, “I see you as more of a fit for a City Council-appointed Civil Service commissioner.”
Jabin, the commission’s chairman, initially despaired of the commission being able to break the 2-2 tie. Then Pader suggested that Merritt join the commission for a special meeting next week on how to resolve the stalemate.
The meeting is tentatively scheduled for noon Thursday, just before Merritt’s term is to expire. Because the discussion will center on the process of filling the position rather than the person who will be appointed, Merritt will be able to participate.
The commission could take action to re-advertise the vacancy, at which point anyone, including Krider, Pader or even Merritt, could apply.
The commission handles issues related to the city’s Civil Service system. The members provide recommendations to the council regarding salaries, job classifications and related issues.
Krider served on the City Council from 2005 to 2012, then lost his re-election bid.
“I know that this is a pretty important commission, and I wanted to continue service to the city,” Krider said. “I enjoyed the time I was on the council, Planning Commission, you name it. Every one of them was a rewarding experience, and I think this is an important and potentially rewarding commission to be on.”
Prior to his terms on the council, Krider was a longtime member of the city’s Planning Commission and served on enough boards to nearly fill an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper, according to Salmon, who read Krider’s experience aloud.
“I, having gone through those qualifications, believe that you’re fully qualified to be a commissioner on this commission,” Salmon said, adding that Krider has “wonderful experience and ability to apply laws objectively.”
Jabin saw things differently, referencing Krider’s eight years on the council as a detriment to his application.
“I don’t see where you can be fair and impartial,” Jabin said. “This position is often referred to as the neutral position. I’m very concerned, as well intentioned as you might be, your history is that you will side more with the City Council than with the issues before you.”
Jabin, who immediately called for a vote after his comments, has butted heads with the city and council over the years, most recently accusing officials of trying to undermine the Civil Service system that was enacted by city voters in the 1960s. He has been critical of the city’s creation in 2010 of a Human Resources Department, which Krider supported, saying it takes all authority away from the personnel director, who answers to the commission.
Pader said he was interested in the vacancy but did not apply because he did not know there was an opening.
The position was not adequately advertised, he said. “Allow the public to have full participation in this process,” he said.
City Attorney Michael Barrett said the city did initiate a recruitment process, which included public notices. Among other measures, the vacancy was posted on the city’s website for May, fliers were posted throughout the city and media releases were issued, according to the city clerk’s office.
An agenda for the upcoming meeting will be published on the city’s website before Thursday.