The city of New Orleans and several local private foundations and businesses are funding a project, led by Minnesota-based consultants the Public Strategies Group (PSG), to overhaul New Orleans civil service policies. Online procurement records show that in May, the city brought on Baptist Community Ministries (BCM) to administer the New Orleans Innovation Fund, to which the city would contribute a maximum of $125,000, to pay PSG for its work on the city's HR Initiative, an implementation plan on changes to rules affecting hiring, firing and evaluation policies for city employees. (Under the terms of the cooperative endeavor agreement, BCM is receiving no compensation for acting as fiscal agent.) Later, at the end of July, the city expanded the scope of the project to include a New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) employee evaluation plan. With that, the city's projected expense increased to $205,000.
The maximum value of the fund, including private donations, is expected to be $530,000, with $300,000 slated for the HR initiative and $230,000 for the NOPD initiative.
According to BCM president Byron Harrell, the fund has received contributions from area foundations and businesses, including the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region.
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“We’re collecting, I think the attempt at the moment is to match the city’s contribution," Harrell said. He said the fund has thus far received $125,000 from the city.
In a privately funded report, City of New Orleans: A Transformation Plan for City Government, released in March 2011, PSG called for changes to local civil service procedures, as we reported last year:
Under its "Cut Red Tape" section, the PSG report makes nine recommendations for changing civil service rules and procedures, including simplifying job classifications, broadening pay grades, easing restrictions on hiring and firing, and aggressively recruiting from outside city government.
Whatever changes are ultimately recommended by PSG would have to be approved by the New Orleans Civil Service Commission.
Mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni said that PSG will not be narrowly focused on changing those civil service policies.
“We’re at the very beginning of this, but the stuff that PSG is working on for us is a much broader human resources transformation," Berni said. “We just began an online survey for employees, and we're focused on a lot of issues including professional development, performance management, training and then also the civil service components.”
Here are PSG's responsibilities for the NOPD evaluation initiative: