About one-third of Los Angeles County's managers would be given "merit service" status, exemptedfrom Civil Service and made eligible for bonuses and raises under a ballot measure proposed Monday by Chief Administrative Officer James C. Hankla.
Hankla's plan, subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors prior to going before voters on June 3, would amend a County Charter provision that already exempts department heads from Civil Service protection to include the next three levels of managers.
The switch in status, by which Civil Service job security would be traded for the chance for quicker advancement at higher pay, would be made available to about 500 more employees in the county's management work force of 1,700.
The current exemption for department heads, approved by voters in 1976, has led to the eventual replacement of nearly all of the county's 47 department heads by officials serving at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors.
The proposal drew immediate fire from Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who assailed it as "wrong-minded and misleading." In a statement, Hahn, who supported the earlier department head exemption, said Hankla's plan "opens the door for a spoils system."
"All purely political jobs have been exempted and top management has been exempted," Hahn said. "Beyond that, any attempts to exempt other county employees will be a strike against the Civil Service system itself, and this would not be in the best interests of the citizens of Los Angeles County."
Board Chairman Pete Schabarum, however, praised Hankla's plan as "timely," adding that it "provides for the upgrading" of the county's management force. Schabarum is part of the board's conservative majority, which has been critical of the current Civil Service system, saying it shields incompetent or unmotivated employees from dismissal.
In an interview, Hankla said he expects the plan to be attacked but defended it as necessary to attract, retain and motivate upper-management employees in the county bureaucracy.
"There may be some individuals who may consider this as having a sort of a potential for some sort of spoils system," Hankla said. "That hasn't been the case for department heads or any other jurisdiction who uses systems similar to this and there is no reason to believe this would in the case of a county merit service system."
Hankla said his plan would offer incentives--in the form of raises and bonuses--for managers to excel in their positions. At the same time, managers failing to meet agreed upon goals would be held accountable for poor performance, he added.
Managers opting for the plan but who fail to meet expectations could return to their previous Civil Service status, Hankla added. Newly hired managers, however, could be fired, he said.
The Charter proposal limits the merit service pool to 1% of the county's work force, which currently totals about 74,000. He said cost differences to the county have not been worked out but would be minimal.
The proposed ballot measure does not spell out the value of incentive rewards that would be available to upper-rung county managers or the criteria for raises or bonuses. Hankla said, however, that officials are working on a detailed incentives plan.
He said in "the next few months," the plan should be completed so that voters may study it before deciding whether to support the Charter amendment.