In order to ensure that Rockland County delivers quality, cost-effective services, it’s imperative that we select and promote the most qualified individuals to vacant positions. For many years, high-ranking County officials injected themselves into the vetting process to lobby for favored job candidates. This practice undercut the transparency that should be part of governmental hiring.
As part of the larger effort to change the culture in Rockland County government, my Administration is pushing back. Under my watch, all forms of favoritism, including separate hiring tracks, preferential treatment and political patronage will be forced out of this organization.
Cronyism, nepotism and special hiring have been linked to public service for decades. A recent survey from the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management found that only 36.1 percent of federal workers thought promotions in their work units were based on merit. They believed that connections, partisanship and other factors played roles.
One of the most basic themes in ethics is fairness. Favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism interfere with fairness because they give an advantage to someone who doesn’t necessarily merit this treatment.
In government, preferential treatment undermines the common good. When someone is handed a position because of connections rather than credentials and experience, the service that person renders to the community may be inferior. Even worse, the appearance of favoritism weakens morale in government service, not to mention public faith in the integrity of the organization.
To this end, I recently issued an Executive Order designed to make certain no County commissioner or department head “plays favorites.” The order requires all managers to submit a pre-appointment review form before making an offer to any prospective candidate. Queries including How many other candidates were considered for this position? Number of candidates interviewed? and Basis for selection of this candidate must be provided.
Additionally, commissioners and department heads are expected to consider candidates based on qualifications, abilities and skill competencies. In the case of internal candidates, past performance and attendance must be factored. In my Administration, all new hires must have the qualifications that most closely meet the needs of the job.
While many have drawn on connections, networking and family in support of a job in the private sector, these sources give the appearance of favoritism (true or perceived) in the public arena. And, while friends and relatives can often be counted on for loyalty, their selection for positions in government undoubtedly gives the appearance of unfairness and incompetence. As your County Executive, I won’t allow this.
In the weeks ahead, look for more organizational changes, including background checks for some high-level positions. My goal is to build confidence in our government and to make certain our employees are proud to come to work each day.