Hawaii Supreme Court Rules Civil Service Jobs Cannot be Privatized

Date: 9 Apr 2012 | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In 1997 the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in Konno v. County of Hawaii that a County could not privatize the operation of a landfill since these were jobs that “are performing a service that has been customarily and historically provided by civil servants”. The case involved a County that had contracted with Waste Management Inc. (WMI) to build and operate a new landfill to take the place of one operated by County employees.

The Court noted that the “purported policy behind privatization is to increase governmental efficiency. In contrast to privatization, the purpose of the civil service is not just to foster efficiency but to implement other policies as well.”  The Court listed several of the policies the civil service is intended to foster:

One obvious policy is the elimination of the “spoils system,” which awarded jobs based on political loyalty. The civil service also embodies positive principles of public administration such as openness, merit, and independence... Openness is served through public announcement of job vacancies, clear articulation of qualifications, open application to all persons, and selection according to objective criteria. Merit is served through a system of competitive examinations and qualification standards aimed at identifying competent candidates... Independence is served through the job security provided by civil service laws; because civil servants can be terminated only for just cause, they are more likely to speak out against unlawful activities occurring in their agencies…. Insofar as a job position that is privatized is, by definition, removed from the civil service system, there is a tension between privatization and the civil service.

The decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2005

David Morris
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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.