The Public Eye

The Public Eye: Two Sacramento County job openings go to sons of higher-ups

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 2:12 pm

When Sacramento County advertised three openings for stationary engineers in March, 55 people applied for the jobs paying $68,500 annually plus health and retirement benefits.

One job was given to the son of Jeff Gasaway, who runs the county's facility and property services, the division that was hiring. Another job was given to the son of Larry Vice, who heads two sections in the division.

Gasaway and Vice said that they had nothing to do with the hiring of their sons, and that they don't directly supervise them. The county's nepotism policy prohibits the hiring of close relatives only if they fall under the direct supervision of the relative.

While not commenting specifically on the hires of Gasaway and Vice, County Executive Brad Hudson says he wants to overhaul the county's nepotism policy, something he said he noticed needing addressing when he was reading through the county code after taking office last year.

"Most of the places he's worked have had a nepotism policy and he feels they're important to provide clear guidance to managers and supervisors about the expectations of the organization," county spokeswoman Chris Andis said.

Hudson said he plans to meet with various stakeholders before bringing a new policy to the Board of Supervisors.

Some county governments take a stricter view of nepotism than Sacramento County. Stanislaus County, for instance, bars the hiring of a relative when the other relative is in "a position to affect the terms and conditions of one another's employment, including making decisions about work assignments, compensation, discipline, advancement or performance evaluation."

In Santa Barbara County, department heads have to decide whether hiring relatives could create "an adverse impact on supervision, safety, security or morale, or involves a potential conflict of interest." If a department head chooses to make the hire anyway, the decision is reviewed by human resources.

The city of Riverside expanded its nepotism policy when Hudson was city manager in 2006. The policy generally prohibits direct supervision of close relatives but says each situation should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Ryan Gasaway, 23, was working in a temporary position as a stationary engineer when he applied for the permanent position in March. He met the minimum requirements for the job by getting a two-year certificate in mechanical engineering at California State University, Sacramento, and completing an apprenticeship at an area employer, his father said.

Ryan Gasaway, Doug Vice and other applicants took civil service exams administered by the Department of Personnel Services. The department forwarded 15 names to General Services for consideration.

Vice was interviewed by a manager and two supervisors in General Services. Gasaway was allowed to skip the interview panel because he was already a temporary employee.

Doug Vice said he made the decision to hire Gasaway because he had already done a good job for him as a temporary hire. Gasaway is responsible for fixing and maintaining county equipment and other infrastructure.

Vice, who runs the county's Security Services and the downtown division of facility management, said he was careful in how he discussed Ryan Gasaway's application with his boss – Jeff Gasaway. "I told him I was not going to talk about it because it would not look good," Vice said.

Jeff Gasaway said he was also careful about the hiring of his son. "We followed the civil service rules to the letter," he said.

Vice said he made no special inquiries on his son's behalf when supervisor Dale Engbloom was deciding whether to hire him in the county's Bradshaw Avenue district.

Ryan Gasaway and Doug Vice did not return phone messages from The Bee.

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