unanimous recommendation from the three-member panel is not
binding and Council president Christopher Coons, primary sponsor
of the proposed legislation, said after the board meeting on
Oct. 6 that he will continue to push for enactment of both
proposed ordinances. They are co-sponsored by the other six
Council members, but, although it is rarely done, members can
vote against measures that they sponsor.
nearly identical measures, which would have expired after 60
days, came before Council on an emergency basis on Sept. 21,
they were rejected by four-to-three votes. The currently pending
ones would be in force until Jan. 5, 2005. Coons said he will
bring them up for a vote when Council next meets on Oct. 12.
told the advisory board that he frequently has received
recommendations from a variety of people in county government
that he "take a look at" job candidates they considered highly
qualified, but he insisted that "nobody ever told me to hire
seemingly skeptical board chairman Richard Bell pressed Freebery
to admit that "a candidate with political connections" would
have an advantage "over the guy on the street" in landing a job.
However, the general manager stuck to his contention that the
law intended to assure everyone who is qualified equal
opportunity is scrupulously observed.
the only member of county government's top management to testify
before the board although the meeting was attended by the entire
cadre of general managers. Chief administrative officer Sherry
Freebery, who was primarily responsible for Council's having
rejected the emergency ordinances, was not there. Sherry
Freebery is Joseph Freebery's sister.
DiIenno, manager of the Human Resources Department, testified
that there presently are four of the approximately 40 employees
who would be affected by the proposed ban on hiring appointees
on lists of eligible candidates for merit-system jobs. They are
being "treated like everybody else" in the hiring process, she
said. In the normal course, more applicants would be expected in
during the final three moths of the administration, she said.
the only pending termination involves a police officer being
fired for cause.
government has about 1,600 employees.
said he brought the proposed legislation before Council in
response to "credible allegations of inappropriate political
pressure" being exerted in connection with job actions. DiIenno
categorically denied that is happening.
Ellwein, president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge which
represents county officers, endorsed the proposed ordinances as
a way to stop "what is going on right now" involving improper
personnel movers. In inordinate number of job openings have been
posted in recent weeks, she testified.
auditor Robert Hicks said that there has been a noticeable
increase in the number of job actions reported under terms of
earlier legislation designed to monitor the administration since
primary elections were held on Sept. 11. Sherry Freebery was
defeated then by Coons in a bid for the Democratic nomination to
run in the general election to succeed County Executive Tom
Gordon, who is ineligible to be re-elected. That assures that
there will be a change in administration come January.
agreed that moving political appointees to protected
merit-system jobs is common practice throughout governments up
to an including the federal level when administrations change.
The rationale is that such moves enable the bureaucracy to
retain the services of qualified experienced people.
acknowledged that "there is no reason why that is
inappropriate," but said there are "things that distinguish as
matters of broad concern this administration." He cited the
"very difficult legal and political environment [in which] the
administration finds itself." That referred to the fact that
both Gordon and Sherry Freebery, its top-ranking officials, are
under federal indictment alleging corruption.
Freebery said there is a great difference between indictment and
conviction of a crime. He said that indictment alone would not
be cause for disqualifying someone from holding or being hired
into a government job. "You and I could be indicted [at] any
time; that doesn't mean we're guilty of anything," he said,
addressing that remark to Coons.
said there is no basis for reputed rumors that Gordon or Sherry
Freebery have applied for county jobs.
said that, under present circumstances, "it is prudent to take
temporary steps that do no permanent harm" to prevent abuse.
Bell said the main effect of doing so would be to counter "a
public perception" that untoward things are happening.
Freebery said that disqualifying political appointees from
consideration for professional jobs amounts to "discrimination
against a class of people" and violates anti-discrimination
Goldsborough testified that barring her from moving from an
appointive position as executive secretary to a merit-system job
would prevent her from qualifying for full retirement benefits
although she will be just 40 days away from having 30 years
service in county government when the administration changes.
She said she agreed to move from her previous merit-system job
to the appointive job with the assurance that she could return
and get a full pension.
said there is a specific provision in the merit-system law
covering such moves. "To deny these people the right to return
to the merit system would violate the merit system," he said.
said there would be nothing to prevent Goldsborough from
applying for and, based on her experience and qualifications,
being hired into a county job after Jan. 5. She said going
through the process would likely take several months, during
which she would be unemployed.
from a merit-system position to an appointive one is a not an
uncommon practice because the appointive jobs usually command
higher pay, more perquisites and greater prestige. On the other
hand, appointees serve at the pleasure of the county executive
and can be summarily fired. It is necessary to go through a
show-cause process to terminate a merit-system employee after a
year's probation. While on probation the employee can be more
easily dismissed for cause or because of substandard
explained that applicants for merit-system jobs are tested and,
if they pass muster, placed on an eligibility list in the order
of their scores. General managers are entitled to select from
among the top five names on the list the person to be hired.
Generally speaking, the tests are written ones for jobs below
the middle-management level and oral interviews before three
persons at that level and above.
said it was not his intention to stymie the everyday functioning
of county government. Bell noted that those workings would
continue with appointees remaining in position during the time
left before the administration changes. The new executive can
then reappoint incumbents or replace them.
suggested that, if restrictions are desirable during the closing
days of the current administration, consideration be given to a
permanent law applying to future transitions. Coons agreed that
that might be a good idea.
Considering the apparent agreement of Bell and Coons on several
points and Bell's rather aggressive questioning of Freebery and
DiIenno, the unanimity of the three board members in reaching
the final decision was something of a surprise.
Stephen Caassarino spoke during a brief discussion after the
testimony, saying that he was going to vote against a favorable
recommendation because he doesn't like enactment of laws to
address specific situations. Edward O'Donnell is the other
member of the board.