There are two big issues concerning the mayor’s security detail: Nepotism and excess. (Now there may be a third: abuse of authority. The security detail was stopped by state police going 97 miles an hour on the Thruway.)
No other Rochester mayor has had a security detail. Bill Johnson drove himself around. Bob Duffy and Tom Richards often had the Director of Security drive them places in a city vehicle. (That’s akin to what other Upstate mayors do. They use either security director or police officer for this function during business hours.) County Executive Maggie Brooks has no driver.
The city’s Director of Security remains on the job, but he’s no longer tasked with driving the mayor around.
Warren created two new positions, Director of Executive Services ($80,000) and Associate Director of Executive Services ($60,000). Her uncle, Reggie Hill, fills the $80,000-a-year job. A former Kodak security man, Caesar Carbonell fills the other job. The positions were not advertised. Warren said they are temporary and she will post the jobs and go through civil service. She said the men will be on call 24-7 and will not earn overtime. They pick her up at home every morning and drop her off at night.
In what’s now become a locally famous quote, Warren said, “We don’t do anything for no reason.”
The mayor said she needs the security because she’s a woman, she has a small child, people are bigoted, people write hateful things about her online and the former police chief said all mayors need security. She said she hired her uncle because she needs someone she can trust and he’s the most qualified person for the job.
Here are the questions that still need to be answered:
1. What do Hill and Caesar Carbonell do all day? Warren likely spends a good chunk of her day at City Hall. Are they standing guard outside her door? If so, what are the regular City Hall security guards doing? Are Hill and Carbonell providing security at her house? Are they doing any personal business for Warren? What are the precise”executive services” are taxpayers providing the mayor?
2. How much security is too much? Just because the former police chief said she needed some protection, did that extend to two armed bodyguards? Could this service have been provided by police officers? Could this service have been provided at a lesser cost? Does the mayor need so much protection she can’t drive herself to and from work? What makes women politicians and black politicians more vulnerable to attack? Violence against local elected officials in the United States is extremely rare.
3. What are the ancillary expenses? Duffy shelved a Tahoe because of controversy over the cost. It appears the vehicle, or one like it has been unearthed. Who is driving what and what is it costing taxpayers? Are these environmentally-friendly vehicles?
4. Why didn’t the mayor go through civil service to hire these men? If Hill and Carbonell are truly the most qualified, let them go through the same process as other citizens trying to get jobs.
5. When will the security detail jobs be advertised?
6. Will Hill get a waiver to collect his pension and work this job? He doesn’t have one right now, meaning he will max out at $30,000 of earnings.
7. Where is the money coming from to pay for this security detail? We are in the middle of a budget year.
8. Are Hill and Carbonell contract employees or on the city payroll? If it’s a contract, City Council has to approve.
9. Are Hill and Carbonell legally allowed to carry their weapons into City Hall and other government buildings where civilians cannot carry weapons?
10. Will the mayor voluntarily bring this matter before the City Ethics Board? The ethics board exists to issue opinions about conflicts of interest, such as hiring relatives. City Council has the authority to ask the ethics board for a decision on the security detail. (City Council will likely do so in the matter of Corporation Counsel T. Andrew Brown wanting to retain a stake in his law firm.)
The hiring of her uncle could fall under Section 4 of the Code of Ethics:
No City officer or employee, acting in the performance of his official duties, shall treat, whether by action or omission to act, any person more favorably than it is the custom and practice to treat the general public.
It’s important to note no one can discipline the mayor, except voters four years from now. But going before the ethics board voluntarily could show good faith. A City Council vote demanding a ruling sends a strong message to the mayor and the public.
These 10 questions should make it clear why this is still a story – and why it’s not going away.
Update: We did not get answers to all of these questions and the mayor’s spokesperson said this blog angered Warren. I was frozen out of her press conference. City Council has now requested an ethics investigation. – RB 1/14/14
Links of the Day:
– Portland and Rochester have similarly educated populations. So why is one city better at the start-up game?
– The mayor of Syracuse is begging the state for money to pay for things like repairing water mains and buying police cars. But it appears the state is more interested in a new sports stadium for Syracuse University.
– In Kansas public buildings, either everyone can have guns or no one can have guns. Guess which is winning?
– Actual headline: “Oklahoma bill would ease school policies on imaginary, toy guns”
– “It’s been my whole life, downtown.” Great profile of 85-year-old Rochester barber.