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Digest of court decisions relating to Civil Service Law..
Opinions of Attorney-General relating to Civil Service matters. ... 130
ALBANY, April 14, 1921. To the Governor:
Merit and fitness ascertained by formal investigation are declared by the Constitution to be the primary qualifications for appointment and promotion to positions in the State, county, city and village services. And the method of that ascertainment, it is further declared, must be competitive wherever practicable. Misapprehension exists even among the intelligent as to the possibility of ascertaining merit and fitness by competitive examination. Even where there is belief that the qualifications laid down in the Constitution are ascertainable by such examination, most citizens are not familiar with the modern methods employed to that end.
TESTS ARE PRACTICAL
There is, unfortunately, a general impression that academic or scholastic examinations are solely the basis of admission to the competitive public service. And many persons have the idea that practical knowledge of work which is to be performed in civil positions or demonstrated ability or training shown in other lines, but, nevertheless, of a nature to qualify applicants to do particular public work, has little if any weight in the rating of competitors.
Examinations as now conducted by the New York State Civil Service Commission give full consideration to experience, training, and education, and it has been demonstrated that it is possible to determine the personal qualifications as well as the practical knowledge of competitors. It has been found that only in rare instances are qualifications needed which examinations properly formulated cannot establish. Such examinations provide a way for any qualified citizen of the State to prove that
he can serve the State in its civil employment. Civil service examinations give equal opportunity to every citizen, where arbitrary preference by law does not exist, to show he is the best fitted to do work that serves his fellow citizens and for which those fellow citizens pay.
State civil service examinations to-day approximate the investigation which every well managed private business makes in taking on new employees. Experience, training, and education are rated to-day in New York State public service examinations, as, in effect, they are in admission to private service. If municipal civil service examinations anywhere fall below the standard indicated, should not public opinion be aroused to better the local examinations, and give vigorous support to a system which offers to all, not to a favored few, an equal right to demonstrate fitness to enter public employ?
EXAMINATIONS COMMENDED The Commission has recently received a letter from the Honorable Frank B. Gilbert, Acting Commissioner of Education, State Department of Education, in which he comments upon certain examinations in these terms:
“In regard to unwritten examinations for positions of specialists in various departments of education: " It gives me pleasure to say that the lists which your Commission has furnished during the last year for such positions have been very satisfactory. The candidates who have been successful in reaching the head of these lists, have universally been men of high caliber, and the men taken from the lists have proved to be well qualified for the positions to which they have been appointed and have demonstrated the wisdom of this method of selection."
IMPERSONATION IN EXAMINATION
A competitor whose name stood first on the appropriate eligible list was appointed to a position in the western part of the State. Comparison of the handwriting in the examination and that of