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.