Washington Supreme Court Nixes Privatization of Custodial Functions

Date: 9 Apr 2012 | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In 1978 the Supreme Court of Washington ruled that the Washington State Community College District could not contract out to a private firm custodial services that “historically had been provided by civil service staff employees of the College.”

The Court noted that the State Higher Education Personnel Law, RCW 28B.16, created a civil service system for nonprofessional employees of state institutions of higher learning, including state community colleges that “specifically provides that “no nonacademic employee engaged in office, clerical, maintenance, or food and trade services may be exempted”.

The College argued that the personnel law applies only to existing civil service employees and in view of the substantial savings anticipated, its action is both reasonable and necessary to the achievement of its goal of providing a high quality of education to its students.

The Court observed, “The civil service laws embody a determination that the interests of the state are best served by a system of merit selection of personnel. Such a determination goes beyond considerations of mere costs to encompass other benefits such as efficiency and avoidance of the “spoils” system. “

And it concluded, “Procurement of services ordinarily and regularly provided by classified civil servants through independent contracts, although not specifically prohibited by the State Higher Education Personnel Law, directly contravenes its basic policy and purpose… Therefore, where a new need for services which have been customarily and historically provided by civil servants arises, and where there 703*703 is no showing that civil servants could not provide those services, a contract for such services is unauthorized and in violation of the State Higher Education Personnel Law….This is so regardless of the cost savings which might be made through such a contract.

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.