Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Russo considered, rejected civil-service move for employees

County auditor Frank Russo considered extending civil-service protection to all his employees after Issue 6 passed, but he has decided against it, says Destin Ramsey, the auditor's chief operating officer.

“We had thought about that, but we clearly don’t think it’s going to make a difference,” Ramsey told me today. “With the whole scheme of things, with the reform coming in, it would take too long.”

Russo considered the move to give his employees more job security, Ramsey says. “He came up with the idea of looking into it, and we did.” But the staff determined that civil-service protection would not prevent the new government from instituting layoffs.

“It didn’t make much difference, especially when it comes to the new government coming in — it’s going to make its own [decisions],” Ramsey says. The new charter calls for the auditor’s and recorder’s offices to merge in January 2011. The county executive will appoint a chief fiscal officer to run the new department.

The auditor’s and recorder’s offices are top targets of reformers who say patronage and corruption have bloated the county payroll. Federal prosecutors claim some auditor’s employees obtained their jobs thanks to bribery-and-favors schemes involving Russo, though he has not been charged with a crime.

County executive candidate Ken Lanci publicized the possible move to extend civil-service protection at the county in his Jan. 13 campaign announcement. Ramsey’s acknowledgment is the first confirmation that a county official considered the idea.

Around New Year’s, Russo decided not to pursue the civil-service idea, Ramsey says. One-fourth of the auditor’s staff took the recent county buyout, so the office is busy reorganizing. It’s also responding to a performance audit by state auditor Mary Taylor’s office and subpoenas from federal investigators, and may have to cope with a possible pending audit by state attorney general Richard Cordray. Extending civil-service protection involves a long process, Ramsey says — and Russo and his staff calculated they couldn’t get it and everything else done this year.

“It’s too much of a undertaking to engage in that at this time,” Ramsey says. “In light of all our responsibilities, it wouldn’t be productive for us.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

t was Ken Lanci who first warned that Cuyahoga County government bosses were considering giving job protection to their political hacks. He spotlighted the issue during his announcement speech. Now we learn that Auditor Frank Russo was, indeed, scheming to give his employees civil service protection. That sounds like a real leader to me.