Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Rodriguez appointed Vernon social services director

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 12:10 PM EST

VERNON — Assistant Town Planner and Economic Development Coordinator Marina Rodriguez will take over as social services director full time after already having performed the job on an emergency basis.

But Town Council Democrats called for more transparency about the transition, which was introduced as new business at the council’s meeting Tuesday and approved the same night.

A one-line new business item was given to council members at the start of the meeting, stating that Mayor Jason L. McCoy was asking the council to approve his recommended appointment of Rodriguez to replace former Social Services Director Paula Claydon, who retired in late 2010.

Rodriguez, who was assigned to fill in after Claydon’s retirement on an “emergency” basis, has an educational background in social work and is qualified for the position. But her career trajectory has trended toward her current role in planning and development, leaving some confused about why she was being shifted to a different department.

“This is a motion. This isn’t how we go about appointing officers to top positions,” unaffiliated council member James Krupienski said.

McCoy called a recess during the meeting to allow Assistant Town Administrator Peter Graczykowski to make copies of Rodriguez’s resume from when she first applied for the job of assistant town planner and economic development coordinator several years ago.

McCoy declined to provide any other documentation relating to the measure, such as a public advertisement for the position, a list of other candidates from which Rodriguez was selected, or her application, leaving some members wondering if she had even applied for the job.

When asked whether the town had advertised the position and received other applicants, McCoy refused to say.

“Did we not receive anybody else who had any qualifications for this position?” Krupienski asked.

“This is the recommendation that I’m making, ” McCoy said.

“That’s not the question I’m asking, your honor. Did we have other applications and did we have other people interview for this position?” Krupienski again asked.

“There were certainly examinations of lists, and this is the recommendation that I’m making,” McCoy said.

“OK, we’re dancing around the same question,” Krupienski replied.

“No, I’m just giving you the answer. That’s the answer to your question, that’s all I can tell you,” McCoy said, adding that the administration is “comfortable” with the work Rodriguez had done while on the temporary assignment.

“You don’t have to vote for it,” McCoy said.

Graczykowski said that under the collective bargaining agreement between the town and the Professional Employees Union, McCoy is allowed to recommend a candidate without providing a list of other qualified applicants, as required by the town charter.

“That actually is the law, I know you want to dispute it,” McCoy said.

Krupienski said that because the motion to appoint Rodriguez cited a provision of the town charter that would require more documentation before approval, those procedures should be followed and not the collective bargaining agreement.

But Graczykowski said the collective bargaining agreement overrules the town charter if there’s a conflict.

He added that town officials advertised both internally and externally for the position and interviewed six candidates out of 29 applicants.

But that list of candidates was “not deemed acceptable,” so the administration decided to look within the union, Graczykowski said.

“I don’t think this is an appropriate use of this person. I don’t understand why it’s being done. This person, I think, has been bounced around more than enough in this town,” Krupienski said.

Democratic council member Michael Winkler said he’d have preferred to see the “second-in-command” in the Social Services Department promoted, especially because he’d never seen evidence that Rodriguez wanted the job.

“Whatever is going on here, I feel confident in my mind, I have not spoken with her, but I feel confident in my mind, that the idea of moving to social services wasn’t her first idea. It wasn’t something she just suddenly thought up one morning,” Winkler said.

But Republican council member Daniel Anderson said he was satisfied with Rodriguez’s resume, and encouraged others to get behind the recommendation.

Democratic council member Marie Herbst responded to Anderson, saying those opposed to the measure were concerned about procedural legality, not Rodriguez’s qualifications.

“A collective bargaining agreement in a union contract overturns what the charter says? What do we have a charter for?” Herbst said. “I want to make sure that the procedure is correct and proper.”

Krupienski attempted to postpone the appointment to the March 15 meeting, “so that she can be present to answer questions before this council, as should be appropriate in the appointment of any director position.”

McCoy said today that Rodriguez had been invited to the council meeting but could not attend because of a personal conflict.

“I don’t believe this person has come forward asking for this. I don’t believe that her present work indicates she has any interest in this position,” Krupienski said.

But the Republican majority blocked the motion and immediately voted on the appointment.

Krupienski was the only council member to oppose it, citing his belief that the correct procedures had not been followed.

McCoy said today that he was pleased with the appointment and said he can begin a search for a replacement for Rodriguez in the Planning and Development Department.

And while Rodriguez essentially held two positions in the department, McCoy said he wanted the new hire to focus on economic development rather than planning in an effort to attract more businesses to town to expand the tax base and rely less on residential property taxes to fund services.

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