Six candidates were interviewed for county historian last week, but no decisions were made as the county waits for a ruling from the state on the validity of the Civil Service test that left incumbent historian David L. Dickinson's tenure hanging by a thread.
Dickinson, a Newfane resident, finished tied for fifth in the June examination, and under Civil Service law, only the top three scorers can be considered for the job. In this case, there are four eligible candidates because there was a tie for third place.
Lower finishers can be considered only if those above them drop out, but Legislature Clerk Christopher A. Pannozzo, who sat in on the administration committee's interviews, said no one dropped out.
Tied for the top spot on the test were Linda E. Deeks and Franklin E. Pfeil of Lockport. Tied for third were Susan L. Penfold of North Tonawanda and Carol A. Schwartz of Wheatfield. Daniel E. Wickosz of Lewiston was tied for fifth with Dickinson.
Dickinson, who was provisionally appointed in January, has been complaining that the test prepared by the New York State Civil Service did not accurately reflect his duties and the job description he was given when he was first approached about the job last fall.
Dickinson said he wonders if a correct job description was sent to Albany by the county.
Human Resources Director Bruce R. Fenwick said the county was told Friday afternoon that state Civil Service officials are still considering the complaints. He said he didn't know if the test results could be invalidated.
But he said he didn't see how the job description could be wrong if the county sent in the one it has had in the files for years. "It wasn't modified or amended by Civil Service," Fenwick said.
Fenwick said the county sent in another copy of the job description, along with a questionnaire Dickinson filled out Aug. 25 about his duties.
This was the first time a written exam was used to fill the historian's job. Teresa Lasher Winslow, who served as county historian in the 1980s, said she and her successor, Dorothy Rolling, were both rated based on credentials, not a test. Rolling was county historian from 1986 until she retired last year.
In a letter to Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster that Winslow released last week, she said she discussed the content of the exam with Dickinson before the scores were known.
"My reaction at the time was that questions about (curating a museum) and exhibit techniques were not appropriate to the job of county historian," Winslow wrote. Niagara County does not operate a museum.
"Nor could I believe there was no provision in the test for questions concerning local history," Winslow wrote. She complained that state Civil Service officials did not consult the state historian's office for input in constructing the exam.
She praised Dickinson as "truly a consummate example of county historian."
Legislator James W. Ward, R-Newfane, the chairman of the administration committee that conducted the interviews, could not be reached to comment Friday. He has previously expressed his support for Dickinson but also said the county will follow the legal requirements about filling the post.