September 20, 2004

Reacting to what he referred to as "blatant disregard of our intentions," Council Council president Christopher Coons called a special meeting of Council for Sept. 21 to consider and probably enact ordinances prohibiting most personnel moves during the remaining days of the Gordon administration.

Coons said at a meeting of Council's personnel committee on Sept. 20 that he was "very agitated" to learn that Lynn Moroz, who is involved as a contracted consultant in a controversial arrangement with county government, has been hired as a full-time employee in a position protected by the civil service merit system.

That, Coons pointed out, was done after he introduced an ordinance imposing a job freeze at Council's Sept. 14 meeting.

Personnel director Patricia DiIenno confirmed that Moroz has been hired, effective Oct. 1, and defended the action as having been pending for several months and completely proper under existing county law. "Once the ordinance is passed, there will be a freeze," she said.

She added that the Human Resources Department which she heads has cooperated with Council in providing information about personnel moves under terms of previously enacted legislation inspired by the indictment of County Executive Tom Gordon and chief administrative officer Sherry Freebery on federal corruption charges. In fact, she said, Coons learned of Moroz's hiring from such a report.

She acknowledged that she was aware the proposed restrictions had been introduced.

The proposed ordinances are sponsored by Coons and have the co-sponsorship of the other six members of Council. Absent any very unusual developments, that would assure their enactment.

As previously reported by Delaforum, the one applicable to Moroz's hiring, would prohibit hiring, promoting, transferring or reclassifying rank-and-file employees, except those with temporary status or who might be needed in an emergency situation, until Jan. 5. The other would prohibit moving political appointees to positions protected by the merit system.

Coons said he has received several telephone calls from county employees about "sudden" personnel actions which "threaten to undermine the merit system."

Councilman Robert Weiner charged the Gordon administration with "abuse of authority" for using protected job slots "to reward and punish those that are allies and foes of the administration." He alleged that "the situation has gotten worse since the primary [election]." Coons defeated Freebery to secure the Democratic Party nomination to run in the November general election to succeed Gordon.

After Coons announced his plan to call the special session, DiIenno pointed out that the law requires ordinances affecting personnel policies to be reviewed by the Human Resources Advisory Board and said the "earliest date we could get together is Oct. 6."

Moroz, the county's former risk manager, owns A.I.S. Risk Management, which now contracts to provide risk management and other services related to workers compensation. A.I.S., in turn, subcontracts with Freebery & Houghton, a law firm. Michael Freebery, one of the firm's principals, is the brother of Sherry Freebery and Joseph Freebery, general manager of the county Department of Special Services.

As Delaforum previously reported, he was one of three applicants deemed qualified to be hired for the risk manager position, which evidently has been vacant since he left it several years ago. He reportedly pulls down a monthly salary of $13,500. How much he will make in the full-time county job was not immediately disclosed.

2004. All rights reserved.

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Read previous Delaforum article: Council asked to impose a hiring freeze
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Council members say 'evergreen' contract emits a foul aroma

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