Government hiring hints of favoritism

A woman who works at the private business co-owned by Warren’s safety-service director was hired recently for a full-time city position with government benefits after her application was hand-delivered by a department head to Warren’s human resources department with a suggestion that they “take a look” at the applicant.

The application for the woman, who works at Enzo’s Restaurant and Lounge on Elm Road, included references for Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa and Mayor Doug Franklin. Cantalamessa said he had no influence on her hiring, but he is the person with the ultimate responsibility for employee hiring in city departments.

It’s unclear how many other people applied for the position or even how the position was advertised because the city’s Human Resources Director Brian Massucci did not return multiple messages and emails seeking information on the topic.

All these details paint a negative picture of government hiring practices, often criticized for favoritism and sweetheart deals.

Alicia Coen, hired in April for the entry-level customer service representative position in the city’s water department, has been described as a hard worker and fast learner. But really, this issue has less to do with her, and more to do with the hiring practice that the city uses for filling positions.

The scenarios that led to her hiring has left other Warren residents who unsuccessfully have been seeking similar government positions but not getting so much as a call back raising questions.

Would an applicant with similar qualifications but who didn’t happen to work for the city’s safety-service director or who didn’t list the mayor as a reference have received the same consideration?

Elected leaders in the city have the ability to ensure they do.

Council members have the ability, after all, to adopt legislation that would require all job openings to be advertised and posted publicly.

They can call for removal of the references box from government applications. Or if a job candidate lists a city leader as a reference, that should be redacted by the city’s human resources department before the candidate is ever considered for employment.

They also could institute a policy banning hiring of relatives of workers or elected officials.

But most important, they could simply hire the applicant who displays qualifications that best fit the specific job description, regardless of who they are or whom they know.

Without this transparency and promise of fairness, government hirings will always be viewed with skepticism.