Friday, March 16, 2018
Monday, February 26, 2018
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
This column appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, February 26, 2018
Virginia Coppola and James DeVellis are selectmen in Foxboro. When it comes to hiring town hall clerical employees, both appear to believe qualifications are not as important as who your spouse is.
They both made that clear this week when the town manager announced the hiring of a new “community information specialist”. Coppola and DeVellis were outraged when they discovered the new employee is the wife of the manager of external affairs/business development for the Kraft Group.
Selectmen (thankfully) play no role in the hiring process for this position. That is the job of the managers, both well-paid professionals. They fully admitted that when they hired the individual, they did not know who her spouse was or if she even had one
That’s because employers are not allowed to ask those questions. Candidates – at least those for non-confidential municipal clerical positions - are under no obligation to disclose marital status, religion, or favorite color.
But Coppola and DeVellis were not satisfied with that, or the fact the new employee agreed to a confidentiality agreement out of an abundance of caution. They said hiring this person somehow opens the town up to the risk of secret information being leaked to the Kraft Group. They were a bit vague on just what that information might be.
DeVellis suggested the town manager should have reviewed the candidate’s Facebook page and social media accounts because she had been to meetings and functions, and thus could have been recognized. The town’s lawyer recommended against that practice.
They were not reassured when told the person would not be participating in confidential matters, and would not attend any executive sessions.
There are employees in town now who recuse themselves in cases where they have relatives involved in the topic under discussion. That is extremely common in municipalities everywhere.
Yet DeVellis claimed this situation compromised the board and made him uncomfortable. He tried disguising his concerns as being about the hiring process, but it was clear his objection was to the person. He simply did not want the employee in this position to be the spouse of a Kraft Group member.
Town Counsel and others pointed out almost all documents in town hall are public record, and any employee could distribute information. In fact, that is what this position of “community information specialist” is supposed to do. So DeVellis’s objection is hard to fathom.
Coppola’s reasoning and logic was even worse. She outrageously and publicly questioned the integrity of the individual when she wondered out loud, “Why does she want to work for the Town of Foxboro? If she’s so qualified…certainly she could get a higher-paying job in the private sector.”
After hearing that awful statement from Selectman Coppola, a lot of potential and current employees may well be asking themselves the same thing.
We can only assume Coppola and DeVellis are currently scouring town records, looking for the marital connections of every town employee. If there is a secretary in town hall married to a manager at the local donut shop chain, they will no doubt have similar concerns. Otherwise, their actions would smack of discrimination.
Because as they said – for them, it’s not about the Kraft Group.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.