Alderman Lou Salvio has filed a Civil Service Complaint against fellow Alderman and now Mayor Pro Tem, Suzanne Bielinski regarding the hiring of her niece by marriage – Jessica Gerratana – as Council Secretary.
According to Salvio’s complaint, “Personnel Director Karen Levine informed me that she was approached by Alderwoman Bielinski in late Spring of 2013 to begin the process of hiring a new person to take the place of Council Secretary, Judie Carroll. Biekinski told Director Levine that she knew someone that was interested in the job.”
A new, four page job description was prepared by Levine and Bielinski.
With the new hiring came an increase in the salary for the position and additional duties. The former person in the position made $53,345, while Gerratana is collecting a salary of $62,445.
Levine said the increase in salary is attributable to the council wanting to “upgrade” the position to include more “research” based functions. Items that might be researched include reviewing city regulations and monitoring bills in Hartford, according to the job description
Salvio questions why Bielinski was allowed to work on changing the position and states that it violates a City ordinance.
Nine resumes were received by the City for the position.
“Both of the top two candidates received phone calls from Majority Leader, Suzanne Bielinski,” said Salvio. “Why would Bielinski do this? She has no business being involved in the classified service business.”
Both of the top candidates later withdrew their applications.
According to the complaint, Candidate #1 issued the following written statement: “There was no written test. The candidates were rated on their experience and training based on their application. What I heard well after the person was hired was that I scored #1 on the Resume/Application. Then an interview was supposed to happen.
But then, I received a call from Suzanne Bielinski to set up an interview; She told me I was overqualified. During this conversation, I was also told that both she and Mike (Trueworthy) were hesitant to give me an opportunity because I would be bored and they were afraid I would walk out within four weeks. She (Bielinski) stated, “give it time, there will be a job opening up more my speed and they have an in with the mayor.” She mentioned she wasn’t sure how the election was going to go but they would definitely put in a good word for me. I did mention to her about my current position, retirement and salary but we could have worked through this. I had set up the system Judie Carroll was using so it would be minimal training. After hearing about the over qualification and the hesitation of giving me an opportunity I knew there was no chance for consideration so I withdrew my name at this time. At the time, I had never been told the status of my application by personnel or anything else regarding the process. I would find out later that I had been rated number one 1 of all the applicants.”
The candidate statement added that “I feel the phone call was used as a way to get me out of the process.”
The second candidate stated that after receiving a phone call from Bielinski she decided to withdraw her application and continue with her present job. She did not elaborate.
When the final vote for Gerratana took place in an ad hoc committee, Bielinski did recuse herself from voting. Aldermen Trueworthy and Adam Platosz voted for Gerratana. Republican Willie Pabon voted against it, but it was approved 2-1.
Pabon said he voted against Gerratana’s hiring because she was Bielinski’s niece and because other candidates who were in the running for the position were more qualified.
Salvio said he wants the matter investigated and all sanctions and violations of the charter to be carried out.
If found guilty Bielinski could be fined not less $2,000.00 nor $5,000.00 and may for a period of five years be ineligible for appointment to or employment in a position in the service, and may be terminated from his or her office or position.
Bielinski did not return phone calls from the City Journal.
The first Civil Service meeting on this matter is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. in Room 201 at City Hall.