The city’s legal department has been asked by mayor Jose “Joey” Torres to provide a report clarifying whether health director Donna Nelson-Ivy is at fault over the hiring of her sister-in-law.
“We’re waiting for one [report]. I don’t see it, but I’m awaiting the law department’s report,” said Torres on Monday. The mayor was quick to defend his acting director stating that her husband has been dead for over 20 years.
“The issue there is that she [Denise Coba] was her sister-in-law 20 years ago, 20 years ago,” said Torres placing emphasis on the length of time Nelson-Ivy’s husband has been dead. “Does that still make her, her sister in law?”
Nelson-Ivy who did not respond to multiple requests for comments when the initial story about her hiring practice came to light, was coming down the stairs in the city hall when a reporter asked for comments. “What relationship?” responded Nelson-Ivy, when asked for an explanation. “My husband has been dead for 20 years.”
Nelson-Ivy rationalized that because her husband passed away some 20-year ago any sort of familial connection that might have existed has eroded out of existence. Although Torres was quick to defend his director, he appeared unsure whether Nelson-Ivy’s explanation was acceptable and in line with the city’s ethics code.
The city’s code is unambiguous stating: “The hiring, promoting, transferring, demoting or reassigning of relatives is prohibited if the employment of such an individual would result in the creation of a prohibited employment relationship.”
Further, the manual defines a “prohibited employment relationship.” It reads, where “one relative would have the authority to supervise (directly or indirectly), appoint, remove, discipline, evaluate, or otherwise affect the work or employment of another relative.”
The city’s anti-nepotism policy is precise stating, “Relative includes…sister-in-law.”
Nelson-Ivy’s hiring of a relative had consequences for other employees in the department. A long time health department employee Anthony Fazzinga was terminated earlier in the month following a series of decisions that protected Coba’s position.
“Well, then she has to be removed,” said Torres, when asked what happens if a report concludes the practice was improper.
Domenick Stampone, the city’s law department director, was not immediately available for comments for this story.