Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration could not produce basic qualification documents for four of his cabinet members, suggesting the mayor did not thoroughly vet his hires.
Sayegh’s administration could not produce the resumes of his chief of staff Della Fischer, law director Farrah Irving, public works director William “Billy” Rodriguez, and health and human services director Oshin Castillo in response to a Paterson Times records request.
“I did review the resumes for all those individuals,” said Sayegh. When asked why they were not filed with the personnel department, Sayegh said, “I kept those resumes for myself.” But municipal policies call for employment history, educational background, and qualification information be filed with personnel.
If the documents exist in the mayor’s office, the Sayegh administration may have violated the Open Public Records Act by failing to provide them in response to the Paterson Times records request.
Personnel policies also require all employees to complete a job application. No job applications exist for Irving, Rodriguez, and Castillo.
Both Sayegh’s business administrator Kathleen Long and economic development director Michael Powell completed job applications and submitted resumes. Their information is on file with personnel.
“The mayor chooses his team. It’s up to the administration to make sure they’re choosing the best employees possible to staff the city. If the mayor feels that that’s the best staff without actually looking at resumes then that is questionable. I would not imagine that is proper practice. How can you tell if someone is qualified for a job?” said council president Flavio Rivera. “I don’t see the Yankees paying $30 million for a player without doing their research.”
Sayegh mentioned bits and pieces of their career experiences in press releases when he made the hires. In each case, Sayegh praised the qualifications and experiences of his hires.
“This is the reason why our city is so poorly run,” said councilman Michael Jackson, who often lambastes Sayegh and his team at public meetings. He alleged the mayor staffed the city with unqualified people. “This administration is running the city based on a buddy-buddy system.”
Some council members have accused Sayegh of hiring his friends and co-workers from elsewhere.
“I’m shocked. Are you sure there were no resumes? Then how’d they get hired? said councilwoman Lilisa Mimms in disbelief. “Just do the right thing. If you’re hiring someone there should be a resume on file.”
“That’s very concerning to me,” said councilman Alex Mendez. “The concern of the people is that nothing has changed in Paterson. Services have diminished. Taxes are going up. And nothing has been done that’s the perception of the people. People are concerned about what’s going to happen with our city.”
“I think the process has been broken. If I have to ask for resumes when appointing a constable, why can’t they do that? It’s so simple,” added councilman Luis Velez. He said constables fill unpaid positions.
But council members voted and approved three of the four cabinet members. Council members said it was the mayor’s responsibility to collect resumes and vet his hires. Velez said Rodriguez was an internal promotion and council members were familiar with his experience.
When asked why she did not demand the Sayegh administration submit resumes to the council, Maritza Davila, who served as president of the City Council during the confirmations, said “I would probably begin by asking the Chair of the Personnel Committee at the time of the hire, Flavio Rivera our current council President, why there wasn’t any demands. Please know the Committee was established for oversight we are not the hiring authority.”
Rivera said no information was provided to his committee. He also pointed out Davila was always a member of the personnel committee.
Davila could have delayed or held back the confirmations if the mayor refused to provide the qualification documents.
“She controls the agenda,” said Rivera speaking of Davila.
Davila controlled the council’s agenda as president.
“In my company, I would never hire a person without looking at his resume, his job experience and his history,” said Mendez, who was not on the council when the confirmation votes took place.
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This story was updated on December 8 at 1:55 p.m. with additional information and comments from the mayor.