Official: Probation Department promotion exams accidentally shredded before they can be graded



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BOSTON — Efforts to overhaul the state Probation Department's hiring and promotion system after years of political favoritism have suffered another setback after trial court officials admitted they accidentally shredded promotional exams before they could be graded.

The shredding incident comes after 55 percent of probation employees failed a test to win promotion to assistant chief probation officer earlier this year, a failure rate so high that some questioned whether the test was flawed.

"The entire Human Resources Department is disheartened by this event, since we have worked tirelessly to develop a best-practice exam process for employees and candidates," Mark Conlon, the court system's director of human resources, said in a statement to The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/1RJ5Fb8 ). "I have expressed my personal responsibility to court leaders and test-takers for this mistake, which ultimately was a deeply regrettable human error."

The completed tests, for promotions in the Probate and Family Court, were inadvertently placed with other testing materials that were scheduled to be destroyed for security reasons, he said.

Thirty-two employees have been told they must take the test again.

The trial court released the results of an audit that showed no problem with the scoring of the promotional test given in March for jobs in the district and superior court, even though more than half of the test takers failed.

The tests were supposed to be a more objective way to judge candidates for jobs and promotions, replacing the corrupt system of former probation commissioner John O'Brien, who was convicted of running a system in which the politically connected were given jobs and promotions over the more qualified.

The shredding undermines employees' faith in the testing process, union president David Holway said.

"Someone makes a human error like this, it sort of undoes the good intentions of the whole process," he said.


Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com

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