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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Defense of Nepotism

For as long as I can remember, there's always been a stigma attached to the son or daughter of a powerful politician who also ends up with a government job. They are viewed as incompetents who only got the job they have because of their family connections. In some cases, it's true. But most of the time, it's not. That child wants to do what his mother or father did, and wants to make them proud. But instead of getting the opportunity, excellent people are often deprived, simply because of their family connections. It works against them. This week we will learn whether one excellent County worker is going to be handicapped simply because her mother, Peg Ferraro, is the Northampton County Council President.

Her name is Mary Alice Einfalt, and she is currently an Accounting Manager in Assessment. She's been with Northampton County since 2010, having previously worked in the private sector for Air Products. She is a CPA. A few weeks ago, the whispers started. There were several anonymous comments, published on this blog, that Einfalt would be the new Fiscal Affairs Director. This was the price Peg Ferraro supposedly demanded for her vote on some key administrative initiatives.

I contacted Ferraro, who told me her daughter had no interest in being the Director of Fiscal Affairs, which is an exempt position subject to the political winds.

Then I began hearing new rumors. This time , it was that a major promotion was in the works for Einfalt. I was told that her new raise would be paid for by taking money from Gracedale's budget. I was also told that one of the accountants there would be reduced in pay.

This bothered me. I don't begrudge anyone a promotion, but not when it's on the back of another worker. So I ran the rumor down.

Here's what I know.

1) County Executive John Brown is planning a major reorganization in the Finance Department. Details may have gone to Council members on Friday, but they have not been released to the public. That will probably happen today or tomorrow.

2) Einfalt is being proposed for a major promotion and increase in salary, commensurate with an increase in her responsibilities.

3) Brown will propose a new person at Gracedale, which is a $5 million annual drain on County costs, to keep an eye on finances

4) One Gracedale accountant is seeing his responsibilities reduced in accordance with what he actually does on the job, although his salary will remain where it is.

As with anything, the devil's in the details. But on the surface, this kind of reorganization seems to me like a good idea. That includes the promotion of Einfalt, who has taken over responsibility for General Purpose Financial Statements (GPFS) and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). She's transformed Payroll, initiating paperless pay, eliminating OT there by 97%, and has taken some Human Resources tracking from there to Payroll. She has identified and eliminated internal control weaknesses missed by the outside auditor and Controller. Glaring examples include a payroll staff that had unlimited access to employee information, and accounts payable being permitted to create new vendors. She is a cross-training advocate and also a disciple of Continuous Improvement (CI), which ironically was championed by John Brown's opponent, John Callahan. She wants accountants reporting to other beancounters, not department heads.

She also has a bit of humility. She told me she's nowhere near ready to assume the responsibilities of Doran J. Hamann, the County's Acting Director of Fiscal Affairs. I have asked around about her, and she has an impeccable reputation at the courthouse.

If Mary Alice were completely unrelated to Ferraro, everyone would be congratulating Brown for recognizing and rewarding her abilities. But because she's her daughter, a number of people insist it is favoritism.

Really?

Do you like Mars candy bars? Nobody seems to complain about the nepotism at that family-owned business, which has existed since 1912. How about the company that built the Hoover Dam? That's been owned and operated by the Bechtel family for four generations, and no one seems overly concerned that the damn will burst. I never heard anyone boycott Coors beer over the fact that it was in the same family for too long.

Nepotism, by itself, can sometimes be a good thing. Our judges have recently been told they can no longer employ relatives as tipstaffs. It looks bad. Really? Isn't a judge entitled to have one person around which he is free to be himself? One person in front of whom he can act intemperately, pick his nose or blow off some steam? And who better for a job like that, which pays lousy and has unsteady hours, than a relative? Who else would want it?

In the name of political correctness, we often do stupid things. Let's hope that a good person is allowed to save money for Northampton County, even if she is related to an elected official. Under the County's nepotism policy, Peg Ferraro is barred from voting for or against her daughter's promotion. That strikes me as a sufficient safeguard.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

That makes how many relatives Ferraro got jobs. Yes, it is nepotism and it is wrong.

Anonymous said...

people shouldn't be penalized from getting a job there qualified for ....coming from a family who's been in business 45 years ...all the family members work harder than anyone else and are dedicated workers...there shouldn't be a nepotism policy, in fact there was a time the county encouraged it,hiring relatives ...when people trusted each other and weren't so negative and spiteful ... as the saying goes if it's not broke don't fix it ....everything has it's flaws you will always have the negative few ...so what !judges should absolutely have who ever they choose as there staff they must be people they trust !the decision should be there's.

Bernie O'Hare said...

4:23, I can't think of any relatives for whom Ferraro obtained a job. But people who post anonymously at 4:23 am aren't interested in facts.

Anonymous said...

Mary Alice is a very sharp and competent employee. Gracedale would be lucky to have her. Maybe she can peel back the layers of fiscal irresponsibility that have plagued Gracedale for years, and caused it to be a drain on the county's fragile budget. Peg will back off on this pick. Her daughter deserves this opportunity.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't know details, but think Mary Aliice will remain where she is in a bigger role, and someone new will be hired to control costs at Gracedale. I wanted to get out what I do know to counteract some of the false rumors. It's true that spmething is happening

Bernie O'Hare said...

... But nobody is being reduced in pay and Mary Alice is not being named Director.

Anonymous said...

True nepotism only exists when you have the power to hire a relative. The fact that your relative got a job for a company or government that also employs you is meaningless unless you participated in the decision to hire. We have to remember that most of America operates in small communities where families dominate the hiring. If you cannot hire people from the same family then many businesses and governments would have to close their doors. No different from when I played midget football. I thought the coach's son got too much playing time. Despite the fact that the coach's son was the best player on the team, the resentment and jealousy are facts of life.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe that in some limited instances, you should be able to hire a relative. If it is a position of trust like a confidential secretary or a tipstaff, I think it is entirely appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but add "is qualified for the position." We have already had a situation where cronyism, not nepotism, in the Brown administration resulted in the nomination of a totally unqualified person for Director of Administration. In the case of Einfalt, we have an imminently qualified individual regardless of her relationship to a key council member.

Anonymous said...

plenty of people hire friends and give them high paying jobs weather or not they meet the qualifications to do the job ...getting a job should be based on qualifications and you as a person...realative or not you still have to do a job your hired to do ,is it somehow better if you hire your friends ?

Anonymous said...

Watch what Brown does to Economic Development. Brown is out of control!!

Something to watch Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:20 AM. "weather or not...", "realative or not..."?? Your writing skills certainly reveal why you support friendship v. qualifications. You should be Brown's new press secretary!

Anonymous said...

seriously @9:46 allergy meds kicked in...don't even brown!

Anonymous said...

Nepotism schmepotism, she's qualified. However, fixing the finances at Gracedale will require more than just a new accountant. It will require political will that is in short supply. This includes privatizing food service, laundry, and housekeeping. Real union concessions on contracts, scaling back the Cadillac benefits, and using the cheaper ambulance for non-emergency transport. The surplus in gone. Cuts need to be made or taxes will have to be raised.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Privatize food service, housekeeping and the laundry. In fact lease out the laundry to a private company. As part of the lease terms they could do Gracedale's laundry and use the 65% of unused capacity to do laundry for other customers in the area.

Anonymous said...

Love how all the tea party folk hate government and their evil ways but are fine with Ferraro trading votes for her daughters advancement and pay. the entire incident stinks and this isn't the first time Ferraro worked a deal like this.

where is the outrage?? Oh I forgot it must be Obama's fault.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Where is the evidence that Ferraro is trading votes for her daughter'a advancement?

Anonymous said...

Don't be so naive Bernie. She has been campaigning for her daughter's advancement for years.You just turn a deaf ear on evidence that does not fit your agenda.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Where is your evidence? You can't even say who you are.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Tea Party didn't really exist. Then, it was an Astroturf, fake movement, unlike Occupy Wall Street, which disappeared after municipal officials grew tired of them shitting on sidewalks and selling weed to passersby. Even liberal toady Panto threw the scumbags out of Easton. That's really hitting rock bottom. Tea Party adherents despise Ferraro for the irresponsible no-show spendthrift she is. Her daughter sounds well qualified and shouldn't be punished for the sins of the mother.

Anonymous said...

"Tea Party adherents despise Ferraro for the irresponsible no-show spendthrift she is. Her daughter sounds well qualified and shouldn't be punished for the sins of the mother."

In other words doi as we say not as we do. Ride on you baggers you.

Anonymous said...

You have no evidence of impropriety. Go shit on a sidewalk and sell pot to kids. Occupy a job and try showering for once.

Anonymous said...

Tipstaff are probably the highest paid employees for actual hours worked in the County. They work one full week a month if lucky - criminal court week - and more correctly work 3-4 hours/day 3 times a week. Many can be seen "resting their eyes" when in court for this limited time. One even had the audacity to smoke in the bathroom despite this being against building regulations. Can't blame them when they have a bum for a boss

Anonymous said...

tea party 8:51, touch a nerve. Go back to you teabag festooned sunhats and your posters of Pres. Obama dressed like a witch doctor. As long as one of your own gets the money, you are happy.

Do as you say, not as you do.

Anonymous said...

Teabaggers love to preach and attack others but they are hypocrites with people like Ferraro.

Ferraro, Gessinger and even Benol have been on board with all the insider political deals Brown wants. Now Ferraro is getting her rewards.

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah. That is what many of you sound like. The woman is qualified.... .

I'll take a teabaggers any day over you others who are the 99%. They will leave my home immaculate. Not steal a thing and no cop will need to be called.

That is the difference so carry on tea party. Actually tea is an antioxidant. What the hell are you???

Anonymous said...

"I'll take a teabaggers any day "

I'm sure you do. Amazing how country club Republicans find ways to feather their and their kids nests at taxpayer expense and get the dittoheads to fight for them.

Teabag away my friend. A shoutout to all the log cabin republicans.

Anonymous said...

Bernie:

I respect your writing, but unfortunately you are wrong on statement #4.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If I am, that is a deal breaker for me. I will oppose any attempt to reward one employee, if it means a pay cut to another who has devoted his career to the county. I hope i am right and you are wrong. I still have no details.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Just got the agenda for tomorrow's meeting, The reclassification does have a slight negative effect on the person in question, but it is so small that it does not trouble me.

Anonymous said...

The rich get richer by the sweat fo their mothers votes. goo djob!