Washington Enacts Civil Service Law

Washington Enacts Civil Service Law

Defining the classified civil service and providing that the provisions of the law shall include: “all full paid employees of the Fire Department of each city, town or municipality. including the Chief of that department,” the Washington State Legislature enacted a state-wide civil service law at the session just completed.

The statute is mandatory and not permissive, providing that ninety days after the law is effective, the constituted authorities of each city shall appoint a Civil Service Commission in conformity with the law, under penalty of fine and imprisonment. The law is patterned after the standard civil service law, but is more liberal than that law in many provisions. In fact, it outmodels the model law and is the finest legislation for Fire Chiefs and firemen ever enacted. It removes their jobs from the whims of politicians and places them on a merit basis.

The law does not apply to any municipal employees except firemen, nor to Fire Departments already having civil service by city charter or local ordinance, except that in event such civil service regulations are repealed, then automatically, the Fire Department of that city comes under the provisions of the law. It creates a non-salaried Civil Service Commission to be appointed by the authority in each city having power to employ the Chief prior to the enactment of the law; provides for a classified civil service system based upon examination, investigation as to merit, efficiency and fitness for appointment, employment and promotion of all officers and firemen in Fire Departments; regulates the transfer, suspension, reinstatement and discharge of all officers and firemen; and provides fine and imprisonment for violations of its provisions.

All members of Fire Departments who have served in their positions for a period of six months prior to enactment of the law, are inducted automatically into their positions, under civil service, without probation. Under the law, Fire Chiefs and firemen, after appointment, hold their position indefinitely during good behavior and may only be dismissed from their positions, or suspended, for cause, after charges have been filed with the Civil Service Commission. They then may appeal to the Civil Service Commission for a hearing, at which they may be represented by counsel and present evidence in their own behalf under oath. The Commission may order their reinstatement or uphold the dismissal, and if upheld, further right of appeal to the courts is provided.

City clerks, treasurers and comptrollers are prohibited from paying any wages to persons for services in a Fire Department who have not been appointed to their positions in accordance with the provisions of the law. The law was sponsored by the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local No. 27, Seattle, Wash., Max Maximilian, Secretary. He was the lone lobbyist for the law during the legislative session.

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