When Mayor Steven Fulop announced Stacey Lea Flanagan as the new director of the Health and Human Services Department last week, he went out of his way to note that the downtown resident had applied for her job through the online resume collection site he set up through his campaign office shortly after he won the mayoral race in May.
“We are reviewing the resumes that have been submitted [online], interviewing the most qualified candidates, and selecting the best people for the job,” Mayor Fulop said. “We are putting the best interest of the city ahead of politics.”
In the weeks prior to Fulop’s July 1 inauguration, he was often approached by residents who expressed an interest in working for the city and new administration. Following the first of his transition town hall meetings, for example, the Reporter witnessed at least two residents ask the mayor-elect about job opportunities in his administration, to which Fulop told them to submit their resumes to the online resume site.
According to city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill, the site collected more than 400 resumes from individuals interested in working for the city.
Now that Fulop is in office and is beginning to make hiring decisions for various city departments, some people are beginning to ask questions about the administration’s hiring procedures.
“I submitted my resume online, but I haven’t heard anything,” said Nina Green, a temporary Department of Public Works (DPW) staffer. Green, one of only a few women staffed at the DPW, said she is currently being paid through a grant that is expected to end in August.
“I love my job and I want to continue,” she said recently. “But I haven’t heard anything and I don’t know what’s going to happen next month.”
‘I don’t know if anyone has looked at my resume or not.’ – Nina Green
Major staff changes are likely to take place within city departments in the coming months, but it is unclear what those changes will mean for current city workers, temps like Green who are in limbo, and people who submitted resumes online and are waiting to hear back.
Last week, the mayor announced plans to conduct a citywide desk audit of every civilian management and supervisory employee.
The purpose of the audit, Fulop said in a release, is to evaluate employee functions and accomplishments over the last year and to evaluate the performance of city programs so his team can determine how best to “redeploy” staff. The audit, he added, will also look for areas where there may be a duplication of services among city staff.
“The taxpayers deserve to have every dollar they pay to the city work for them and redundant services eliminated,” Mayor Fulop said. “We want to make every employee and every office accountable and working to its fullest potential for the residents and business owners. To do that, we need to understand the human resources we have in place and maximize staff utilization.”
Two City Hall employees last week applauded the audit, saying it is long overdue, but questioned why the audit is taking place as hiring decisions are being made, even among non-supervisory staff.
“None of these jobs are being posted and if they are city workers don’t know where they’re being posted,” said one employee who did not want to give her name for fear of retribution. “You know, within the city there are people who want to move up, people who want to advance. But they feel like they can’t apply for anything because they don’t know what [positions] the administration is hiring for.”
For example, according to City Hall workers, several new hires have reportedly been made within the Mayor’s Action Bureau, an office Fulop wants to be the first stop for a number of constituency services. Current employees who had an interest in perhaps working in the Mayor’s Action Bureau say they were not aware that hiring was taking place until a handful of new faces showed up in the office after Fulop’s inauguration.
When asked about new hires in the action bureau and what title one alleged new employee has, Morrill said, “There are several personnel changes taking place across departments, and those changes will be rolled out over the next several days.”
Morrill did not answer a question regarding the ways in which the administration is advertising available jobs with the city, and the city will not confirm most hires that have been made thus far. But current City Hall workers say they notice a number of longtime Fulop supporters now doing work for the city, leaving them to wonder if these people had inside information regarding available positions.
“I don’t understand the process,” said another City Hall worker. “Do the desk audit. Then do the hiring and reshuffling…I’ve worked with a few mayors, not just Healy. It’s like the current employees aren’t part of the equation, we’re not part of any discussions going on about how to remake government in Jersey City. Are we seen as the enemy just because we worked under Healy? I don’t know. But many of us support Steve’s ideas to modernize and professionalize city departments. But we aren’t being given a chance to have that input.”
When asked if he submitted his resume to Fulop’s online resume site, this employee said he did not, but later added, “I didn’t think I had to, but maybe I should have. Maybe we’re all going to have to reapply for our jobs and anybody who didn’t submit online will be out.”
‘Where exactly are these resumes going?’
According to Morrill, members of Fulop’s transition team are sifting through the resumes that were collected online and scheduling interviews with some applicants, a procedure that doesn’t sit well with some.
“Where exactly are these resumes going? Who is seeing these resumes? Some resumes contain private information and other details and how do we know we can trust the people who are reviewing these resumes,” said activist Riaz Wahid, who last month began raising questions about the way in which Fulop was searching for talent.
Most members of Fulop’s transition team are volunteers and do not work for the city. Thus, Wahid questions whether they are adequately following confidentiality and chain of command rules that typically govern hiring decisions.
The process has left people like Nina Green wondering about what her fate will be with the city come August.
“I don’t know if anyone has looked at my resume or not,” said Green, who approached this reporter in Newport Centre Mall looking for information on the administration’s hiring process. “And I have no way to follow up.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.