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Bielinski Decision: Removal, Fine

After hearing testimony for over a month, the Civil Service Commission Monday recommended that Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Bielinski should be removed from her position on the Council, fined $2,500 and the position of Council Secretary reposted.

Alderman Lou Salvio filed a complaint against Bielinski of hiring her niece by marriage – Jessica Gerratana – to the position. Bielinski is the sister of State Sen. Theresa Gerratana.

The position also involved an increase in salary.

The recommendation will now go to corporation counsel who will respond to it by Dec. 1.

An attorney was heard following the meeting very upset and stating appeals would take place.

Bielinski’s lawyer James Sullivan said during his summation that this was all political.

Those on the commission said their decision was made after much thought.

“For me personally, it wasn’t just one thing,” said Miriam Geraci, civil serice commission member. “It was the testimony and evidence presented during several meetings. Bielinski claimed that she did not know Gerratana was applying for the job despite telling Karen Levine, personnel director, that she knew someone who was interested in the job.”

Tony Kane, commission chairman, said it was not at all a political decision.

“Absolutely 100 percent not. I’m very offended that people are thinking that way because I took pains to stay non-political,” said Kane. “We never once considered her party. We were only concerned with the evidence.”

There was a lot of testimony throughout the hearings from both sides.

Testimony from a recording and an affidavit from of Pattie Lewis on Monday night, who applied for the job and was the number 1 ranked candidate, said she withdrew “because Bielinski told me I was overqualified. I knew I was not going to have a chance of being appointed.”

Bielinski claimed she said “More than qualified” and that the two have different meanings.

Lewis went on to say in the affidavit that “in the beginning I believed Ms. Bielinski had my best interests at heart because she thought I was over qualified, the job was beneath me and there would be a better opportunity at a later date in the Finance Department.”

Lewis’ recording came from an Ethics Commission complaint. The Ethics Commission ruled that there was no violation. The two commissions make a decision based on different parts of the charter.

A second candidate also withdrew after speaking to Bielinski, but that tape was unavailable.

During an earlier meeting, Alderman Willie Pabon said that only Gerratana was originally interviewed and he requested more people be brought in. After that, two more people were interviewed at another date.

Pabon added that no formal vote had taken place.

“I never voted anything. I was told they had decided that Jessica had the job,” said Pabon. “I was told after a Council meeting that (Alderman Adam) Platosz voted in her place.”

On Monday, Bielinski said that Alderman Pabon said that he could not vote for Gerratana because of her last name and the backlash he would get from his party.

Bielinski said she felt uncomfortable voting for Gerratana and asked Platosz to cast his vote instead after getting advice from corporation counsel. Platosz was never present during the interview processes.

Platosz stated that he voted for Gerratana based on what he was told during Democratic caucus meetings.

Other evidence during earlier meetings was that Levine said she spoke with former Council Secretary Judy Carroll who said that indeed Gerratana and her husband Greg had come in to see the office prior to the job being posted to check the place out to the extent that it almost appeared that they “were measuring for curtains.”

Caroll chose not to testify formally.

On Monday night Gerratana said that was not true. She said she was outside the office once and met Carroll for 5 minutes.