Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Milardo Questions the Nomination of Mayor's Chief of Staff to Planning Position

COMMENTARY  by John Milardo
This is an opinion piece originally published in an occasional newsletter, "And Justice For All," by a former longtime Middletown city employee, union member and union representative. Statements made in this commentary are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of other editors and authors whose work appears here.
According to Mayor Dan Drew‘s statement, his nominee appointment for the Director of Planning, Conservation & Development will take place Monday, April 3rd Common Council meeting.  The General Counsel Commission will take up the topic prior to the Common Council on Thursday March 9 in City Hall Conference Room 208.  There are issues related to this appointment which need to be looked into for transparency reasons and public scrutiny.
Ÿ  How did the City advertise for this vacancy?  Locally, nationally, periodicals, electronically, City website only?
Ÿ  How did the Mayor’s nominee qualify for this job without any of the educational minimum requirements?
Ÿ  Did the nominee apply for this position as prescribed by the City of Middletown Personnel Rules, Charter and Ordinance, and Civil Service guidelines?
Ÿ  Was the interview panel made up of individuals from the Planning, Zoning, and Conservation field?
Ÿ  Who were the individuals on the interview panel and what was the process?

Ÿ  Reportedly the Mayor’s nominee participated and/or was an observer during interviews of the qualified applicants? 

This is a huge problem if in fact it is true.  It would have given him an unfair advantage over anyone else if he applied and was interviewed by the very same panel. 
Basically, it would be like an open book test.  Nice to have someone else give you the answers needed for your test.
Ÿ  If the Mayor’s nominee was interviewed, was it by the same panel and same criteria as the other applicants which the nominee may have been in attendance? 
Or, was it at a subsequent meeting with the Mayor and someone else?
Ÿ  Did any of the applicants qualify (pass the test) and get placed on the City’s “Eligibility List”, which was sent to the Mayor for review and/or appointment?
Ÿ  If none of the applicants qualified and there was no “Eligibility List”, why wasn’t the position advertised again publicly?  
The Mayor has recommended the reduction of minimum qualifications for the current job description.  He wants to eliminate language in the original job description (“Economic or a related field with Master’s level course in the field”) as well as (“with 5 years of urban planning/conservation/development experience”).  The Mayor also wants to eliminate the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification requirement in the current job description. He wants to change it from having the certification prior to hiring, to being able to earn it within so many years after being appointed to the Directorship.  In addition to the Mayor’s nominee lack of educational requirements, he also does not possess his AICP certification, as other candidates were required to have.
If the recommended job changes are approved, it would change everything!  First of all, in fairness to all applicants, you would make job description changes before posting a job, not after appointing or nominating an individual.  Many more professionals in the Planning world will be qualified to apply for this job if the requirements are changed.  The position should be re-advertised publicly with the new changes, and another test given to all new and old qualified applicants.  
Also, if you are modifying (reducing) educational and certification requirements, how is it that the position retains the same pay grade?  Should the salary not be reduced?
These are some of the questions which need to be addressed.  
In local news reports here and here the Mayor was reported as saying that  his Chief of Staff was part of ALL City projects is ridiculous!  Was he involved in every variance and resident request - in every commercial/industrial request?  
I don’t think so.  I’m sure every Mayor wants to be apprised of significant projects coming into town, but to say "He's been a critical player in bringing all the deals we've been successful on to fruition in the past several years," (Hartford Courant) is just not the truth, in my opinion!  The absurdity continues with the Mayors remark that his Chief of Staff and nominee for the PC&D position was the reason Middletown’s “unemployment rate fell from 7.2 percent in 2011 to 3.6 in December.” (Middletown Press)  Come on now!  If that is the case then the Chief of Staff should be running for Governor of Connecticut.

Point of information:  According to the City of Middletown Charter, there is no such official position in the Mayor’s office titled Chief of Staff.  It’s a manufactured job title.  There is a position called Administrative Assistant to the Mayor in the City Charter.  In either case,  it's a political appointment made by each Mayor.
Understandably, the Mayor is trying to prove his nominee is qualified for the position.  Proving it factually is more difficult than just telling everyone he is the best person for the job.  How would his nominee qualify for this position in another town?  I’ll bet his application wouldn’t even be considered!
According to the November 2016 Common Council meeting minutes, the outgoing Director of Planning, Conservation & Development, Michiel Wackers, was presented an Ordinance citation for all the great work he had done.  I will assume the citation is accurate as attested by all members of the Common Council.  Especially Councilman Gerry Daley who has been a member of the PD&C Commission for many years.  You can read Resolution #129-16 (page #5) in full on the City of Middletown website and Councilman Daley’s comment regarding the Fed-Ex project, which the Mayor’s intimates his nominee was responsible for?  
The Councilman praised the outgoing Director on his hard work for bringing the Fed-Ex project to fruition.
In the Middletown Press article, you can see how the Mayor and Councilman Gerry Daley appear to be laying the groundwork for an additional position within the PC&D Department.  That person would have the knowledge and perform the duties of a Planning and Development Director.  That person would be required to have the qualifications which the present nominee needs but doesn’t possess.  Someone has to have them!
Councilman Daley and the Mayor are trying to diffuse the nominees lack of minimum qualification requirements by stating what the PC&D Department really needs is an “administrator”, not someone who possess’ the qualifications and certifications of a Planning Director.  That is hogwash!  
If the Common Council buys all this and does approve the nominee with job changes for the position, Middletown will have the first and only Planning, Development & Conservation Director in the State, and perhaps the nation, who does not possess the required minimum qualifications, degrees, and certifications for the job.  Middletown is poised to reclaim its waterfront with smart development.  Having a person who does not possess even the minimum requirements of the position in the department to oversee this massive development opportunity is disturbing.
I hope the Common Council does the right thing for the people of Middletown and not just their Party leadership, and rejects the Mayor’s nominee.

--> John Milardo


Anonymous said...

I, too, am very concerned about the lack of education and planning experience with the Mayor's nominee. We should be looking for someone who brings proven ideas tempered with a wider understanding of new ways of dealing with urban issues. Is Joe even a member of the American Planning Association (for that matter are any of the P+Z Commission) or attending CT Chapter continuing education workshops?
I must post anonymously because this administration is known to be very retaliatory.

Anonymous said...

No, no, and no. Changing the qualifications to this position does Middletown and its residents a disservice. We need to find someone who is qualified for the job, not make the job fit the (unqualified) person Dan Drew wants to put in place.

Anonymous said...

Mr. MILARDO would have been wise to present facts rather than his politics and anger. He is one of the old guard who served during the "good old boy system" that Middletown was once known for. That mentality is outdated. If he has any interest in Middletown's future, he shouldn't be campaigning for its past. #1 Anonymous says he's posting anonymously because the administration is "very retaliatory," which is nonsense. It is a gratuitously nasty and an unfounded claim against an administration that has clearly been serving the greater good for all Middletown residents. His accusations of retaliatory conduct just sounds like someone who was accustomed to getting their way with "the good old boy system," but recently didn't get the preferential treatment they expected. I'm not a politician but I recognize politic-speak when I hear it (read it). Let's review the qualifications of new hires in the past, including Mr. MILARDO's. Qualifications, experience or certification didn't get them their jobs. In most cases, new hires/appointments were friends of a friend with some power or who was calling in a favor. Mr. Samolis threatens the old, questionable ways government had been handled, the old Middletown. Nowadays, good judgment, great administrative skills, respect for the citizens he's proud to serve and unquestionable integrity overrides all the certificates available. These are the qualifications that a "new" Middletown demands.

Anonymous said...

Would the city hire a head city attorney and say hey here's 5 years for you to get a degree, use Middletown affairs as homework, & pass the bar but in the mean time we'll pay you $126,000 a year & hire actually attorneys to do your job you supervise? Sound ridiculous? Yes- so how is this any different?

Anonymous said...

Ok so while posting such NEGATIVE items as mentioned above.....lets take a look at "The facts" .... The last Planning Director and current deputy director are not exactly the cream of the crop folks..... We live out on Saybrook Rd and found business's operating illegally for YEARS and the past directors knew it..... We brought it up to the towns Council and they didnt know how to react. IN FACT we had blatant evidence INCLUDING business's with no site plans, operating without STATE REQUIRED PERMITS that BY LAW require permission by local zoning FIRST before being permitted.... All overlooked by the CERTIFIED city planner...... Oh yes...businesses operating on residential land....WE put a map in his face and he did nothing.... IN FACT one of the "officials" told a neighbor not to bring up any of these businesses at a P&Z council hearing....Isn't that interesting.....Take a ride down Saybrook Rd for yourself
You might see a blight problem.......why is this.....because NOTHING was enforced....Oh yes the past CERTIFIED folks basically seemed to have turned their heads on these businesses. One of which was issued three CEASE AND DESISTS once we all realized they were operating in a non permitted building on residential land.....So whats that you were saying about CERTIFICATION?????? We have all the evidence ....... Joe has been the only person in City Hall along with the mayor to do something about what we have discovered....The new ZEO is great too.....She cares about the people not just the businesses who get BIG GOVT CONTRACTS........Thats all the businesses are concerned about.....Having someone who will turn a blind eye on environmental destruction while they line their pockets.....Its pretty damn obvious......... The evidence speaks VOLUMES........Have a Nice day.

Anonymous said...


For the first time in almost 50 years Middletown does not have a professional planner in its Planning and Zoning office.

George Reif came to that office in 1968. When he retired in 1985, his assistant director, Bill Warner, succeeded him. Bill Warner retired in 2014, and was succeeded by the then assistant director, Michiel Wackers. All had planning credentials and degrees.

Bruce Driska, then the zoning enforcement officer, was named as assistant director.

When Michael Wackers left in October of 2016, Joseph Samolis , the mayor’s chief of staff, was named as acting director and is now proposed to be the director.

Now neither the assistant director nor the proposed new director has a planning degree.

Is 2017 the time for Middletown to stop having a trained planner?

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

This is a debate worth having. Should we have Planning Directors and Enforcement Officers who are unwilling, for whatever reason, to enforce zoning law? No. Should we have a director of Planning who does not have the requisite skills and certification. No? Can we find someone who is willing to uphold code, understand planning and development, work with businesses, citizens and the town government? Of course. Would the hiring of Joe Samolis be a change from the "good old boy" patronage system? Of course not, it would be a continuation of such. Middletown needs the best qualified, most able director of planning, and we don't need to create another layer of bureaucracy to achieve that goal.

John Milardo said...

To Anonymous March 10, 2017 at 11:13am.
You state I “would have been wise to present fact rather than politics and anger”, and that I am “one of the old guard who served during the good old boy system”. You also question my qualifications – which I assume were for the position I held during my employment?
First, I was never part of the “good old boy system” you mention. I was always outspoken and worked for the person I believed would do best for Middletown – be it a Democrat or a Republican. Never, and I mean never, have I asked any politician, past or present for a “favor”, nor did I have any type of “power” other than the duties within my job. You can ask any of Mayor’s and Councilpersons for yourself.
Secondly, I am not angry; I am very passionate about my town. I am very concerned how anyone in such a high-level position could be appointed to such a town altering job in our City, without the MINIMUM qualifications. I stated the facts! You concluded something different because it did not result in the answer you sought out.
You are in favor of the “new” guard (Joe Samolis), and believe Middletown is better off hiring someone who has “good judgment, great administrative skills, respect for the citizens he’s proud to serve and unquestionable integrity overrides all the certificates available. These are the qualifications that a “new” Middletown demands.” Your new Middletown scares me! One should have those attributes as well as the educational background and experience.
You are in favor of throwing out proper educational requirements, certifications, knowledge, or testing scores and procedures. (You see Anonymous, Middletown must comply with Civil Service testing and procedures). Your qualification list basically includes anyone off the street. That is a great way to do business isn’t it. To answer another one of your remarks, maybe this appointee could follow the same procedure I went through many moons ago for my job? Apply for the job – meet the qualifications for the job – have the experience for the job - test for the job by an out of town independent panel – pass testing procedures – and be placed on an eligibility list for the Mayor to make an appointment.
The current occupant in the Mayor’s Office is the “new” Middletown you describe. Many of his current appointments were a direct result of his desire to be a player in the State of Connecticut and promote himself. The connection of the Mayor’s appointments to Governor Malloy wreak of the “good old boy” network you so detest.
Lastly Anonymous, by saying “I’m not a politician” leads me to believe you probably are. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll just call you Danny.
John Milardo

John Milardo said...

According to an article in today's Middletown Press (3/12/17), it looks like the Democrats on the Common Council are all in-line to support and approve the Mayor's nominee. The public will get this Director rammed down their throat regardless if he is qualified, or if the procedures were legally and properly followed. The so called "new good old boys" network is a nightmare!

cybermom said...

This appointment is an open political appointment. The man is not qualified. Any Council people who vote for this appointment do not deserve to be reelected. Middletown
deserves the best people we can hire for jobs like this one. If the Council people want to only be politicians instead of intelligent people vote for this guy.

Anonymous said...

I think one VERY IMPORTANT fact, that everyone here is missing, is that this is actually a combined position, and in fact, the job is RIVERFRONT DEVELOPMENT CZAR.

please re read the job changes, and note, we are putting a massive project in the hands of a person without qualifications.

any person who votes for this should be ASHAMED of themselves.

not to mention the rte 9 redevelopment is imminent.

this is all around bad for middletown, I hope the FBI gets involved before it is too late. this sort of manipulation of rules should be illegal, and probably is. maybe a class action lawsuit is in order.

John Milardo said...

The most crucial points of this ridiculous appointment process should be answered by Mayor Drew while on live TV so the general public can hear his responses.

1.) Why did the Mayor violate the City of Middletown Personnel Rules and Civil Service regulations regarding the hiring and testing procedures for this Directorship? There are so many testing and hiring procedure violations it's incomprehensible that the Mayor would think he could just shove this appointment down the throats of the voters.

If the Mayor has all his ducks in a row, and the Democratic Council goes along and approves the Mayors nomination, then tell me how you can remove and/or relinquish education, certifications and knowledge, without substantially reducing the salary of the position?

Only in Middletown!!!

John Milardo said...

The Hartford Courant this morning posted an article stating that Mondays Common Council meeting will vote on the job changes for the Planning, Conservation and Development director position, as well as the appointment at the same meeting. This is an unprecedented move!
The Mayor is going requesting a change in a job description and appoint a director in the same breath. If the Council approves this, they are taylor making a position for someone who does not qualify under the existing job description. How many other individuals would have applied for this job if the changes were already made prior to it being posted? Why isn't the job being advertised again to the general public? That has been standard operating procedure.
Mayor Drew and the Democratic Councilpersons who approve this are just proving the "good ole boy" network is dead, but the "good NEW boy" network is alive and well.

Anonymous said...

"...the "good ole boy" network is dead, but the "good NEW boy" network is alive and well."

Is that what you're really upset about?

Anonymous said...

The move is about as unprecedented as the exaggeration (some would say alternate facts) of Debra Milardo's credentials when she was appointed as personnel director. Business as usual in Middletown.

John Milardo said...

To Anyonomus, 1:55pm,
Deb Milardo qualified under the scrutiny of the then Personnel Director and examination board. The Civil Service and Personnel Hiring procedures were properly followed. She met the qualifications of the job and all other procedures; not so for this nominee.