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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

In 1939 Jersey City had 3643 employees and Hudson County 2598. (New Jersey State Civil Service Commission, Report, 1938-1939, p. 101.) The total (69,41) may be said to be the regulars of the political army. There are, in addition, several thousands of auxiliaries: the employees of the other municipalities in the county; residents who have state jobs; and the federal employees in the W.P.A., P.W.A., F.H.A., II.O.L.C., F.D.I.C., and in the other agencies under organization influence. There were 1310 in the postal service in 1930, a large number of whom are adherents. The exact total of federal and state employees cannot be ascertained. It seems safe, however, to estimate the political army at twenty thousand, or about one adult in every twenty in Hudson County.

Most of the employees both of Jersey City and of Hudson County are theoretically protected by civil service laws; but the protection is unimportant, for employees may always be dismissed for reasons of economy or by the abolition of the positions they hold. There is no evidence that their political enthusiasm is one whit diminished when they work under civil service. The State Civil Service Commission, whose president is Maurice J. Cronin of Jersey City, is clearly under the control of the organization when the payrolls are not opened to the public as the law requires.

The Case Committee was very much interested in the enforcement of the civil service law in Jersey City and Hudson County. They took weeks of testimony and then said in their report:

Among these [violations of the civil service law] were persons in the public employ of Jersey City and Hudson County who had never taken a civil service examination, as required by the statute; persons who were temporarily in the public employ longer than four months without having taken an examination.... More than forty persons were employed in the Water Department of Jersey City of whose employment there was no record, either in the Jersey City office or in the Trenton office [of the Civil Service Commission].... Several employees were found in the City Clerk's office of Jersey City who were paid for every day in the year for keeping ballot boxes in repair. Their names did not appear on the Civil Service records.... (Case Committee Report, Senate Journal (1929), p. 1110)
How these irregularities came to be permitted by the commission was also pretty well clarified: It further appeared that Mr. [Theodore] Smith [then chairman of the State Civil Service Commission] had been frequently appointed a condemnation commissioner in Hudson County, and that lie had received from $8000 to $10,000 in fees....

Mr. Elmer S. Parselles, Chief Clerk of the Jersey City office [of the State Civil Service Commission], was questioned.... It was shown that Mr. Parselles had been employed by the City of Jersey City and had been paid `on claim' for a period of at least two years a salary of $150 a month.... His name (lid not appear on the regular Jersey City payroll or on the Civil Service lists.... When asked what service he rendered the city, he said he served as clerk to the police and fire reserves.... His testimony describing his services to the city was very vague. His memory was faulty and his answers were evasive. Whether in fact he rendered service to the city or not, his employment was a direct violation of the Civil Service law. (Case Case Committee Report, Senate Journal (1929), pp. 1111 and 1112.) There are many people in New Jersey who wonder whether a new investigation would not turn up items of equal interest to students of public administration.


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