Back in March, Sacramento County announced three openings for stationary engineers. The jobs paid a hefty $68,500 a year plus generous county retirement and health benefits. Fifty-five people applied. In the end, after the required civil service exams and interviews, two of the three jobs available went to the sons of high-ranking supervisors in the division where the jobs were posted.
Certainly the 52 people who didn't get the jobs have doubts. So do a number of county employees, who called The Bee to complain, along with other readers. Relatives of county workers should not be barred from applying for county jobs. At the same time, they should not get preferential treatment when they do.
Jeff Gasaway is head of Sacramento County's facility and property services division. His son Ryan Gasaway was hired as a stationary engineer in his father's division, but the elder Gasaway denies any favoritism. "We followed the civil service rules to the letter," he told The Bee's Brad Branan. David Devine, the director of the county's Department of Personnel Services, concurs.
Still, the man who made the final decision to hire Gasaway's son is Larry Vice. Jeff Gasaway is Vice's boss. It's hard not to see conflicts of interests and undue pressure in that hiring scenario.
Unlike all the other applicants, Gasaway's son did not have to go through the interview process because, as Vice explained it, he was already working for the division in a provisional job and doing well, in Vice's view.
But that raises a second question. When and how did the boss' son get the provisional county job? Vice told The Bee that Ryan Gasaway got the provisional job because no one else applied. No one else applied really? In a county with 11.4 percent unemployment, only one person applied?
As county Personnel Director Devine explained it, unlike permanent jobs, provisional positions, lasting no more than five months and 29 days, don't have to be posted. The provisional county job Ryan Gasaway landed before he was hired permanently was not posted. Devine says it was "announced twice at division staff meetings." Only the son of the top supervisor in the county's facility and property services division applied. He held it for just two weeks before the permanent job posting went up.
The second man hired for another of the three stationary engineering jobs posted was Larry Vice's son, Doug Vice. Larry Vice is the same supervisor who made the decision to hire Jeff Gasaway, his boss' son. Vice's son was interviewed and selected by another supervisor in the division who also works under Gasaway.
County Executive Brad Hudson concedes that the hiring of the sons of two division supervisors looks suspicious, even to him. He also says the county's nepotism policy is "too vague" and promises "that's going to change." He is working on a new, more explicit policy which he plans to circulate to the bargaining units. It could not come soon enough.