February 6, 2013

Question of Nepotism Raised When Relatives Receive Jobs In Town

“Let me make it very clear that Kathy Monzo did nothing wrong; she didn’t break any laws or do anything that was deceptive,” says Councilman Lance Liverman in response to questions about nepotism in the new consolidated Princeton.

The questions arose with respect to the hiring last year of Ms. Monzo’s three daughters for work in various capacities in what was then Princeton Township, when she was the acting administrator.

Recent reports in local print media have focused on Ms. Monzo, now the assistant administrator and director of finance in Princeton, and the hiring of her daughters, Jacqueline Shaddow, Meghan Shaddow and Kelly Shaddow, two of whom now work for the new consolidated Princeton.

Jacqueline was appointed as a temporary part-time secretary in the building department last summer and was taken on full-time in December after the job was advertised internally as a full-time $38,471/year position. She was the only applicant.

Meghan started working in December, also in the building department, earning around $11-an-hour for several hours of filing work per week. She still works for the municipality in a temporary position.

Kelly was employed for a few days around Christmas time doing mass mailing for the public works department at some $11-an hour. She has since left this position. She had also worked for the Township a few summers ago.

Princeton Township’s personnel policy manual did not forbid relatives of employees from working for the Township as long as family members were not “directly supervised” by their relatives.

Mr. Liverman’s view that Ms. Monzo had done nothing wrong was endorsed by Mayor Liz Lempert in a telephone interview last Friday, following a meeting of Princeton Council’s personnel committee the previous day.

According to Mr. Liverman, who serves on the personnel committee along with the mayor and Councilwoman Jo Butler, Thursday’s meeting was not prompted by recent questions about nepotism with respect to the hiring of Ms. Monzo’s daughters “The issue of nepotism was just one item on a long agenda for the committee which discussed anything related to -personnel,” he said, adding that he could not comment in detail until the committee’s discussion had been shared with the full council.

Of the meeting, Ms. Lempert commented by email: “The personnel committee discussed what the anti-nepotism policy for the new municipality should be. The Township had a written policy; the Borough did not. We discussed strengthening the Township policy, which prevents an employee from directly supervising or hiring a relative or spouse.”

Mr. Liverman said that the new policy will remove any ambiguity. It will make the issue “crystal clear.” He said that “when Kathy’s daughters were first appointed, she was not the administrator for the Township. After she became administrator, it was her job to sign off on any hires. That’s what we have to address.”

“We’ll be adding ‘safety checks’ to make sure there is not even the appearance of nepotism,” said Mr. Liverman.

In a telephone interview Monday, Princeton town administrator Robert W. Bruschi concurred. “Ms. Monzo did not intend to violate any policies and while she did not hire her daughters directly, and was not involved in the interview process, she did have to sign off on the hiring papers because of her position as acting Township manager at the time,” he said.

Nevertheless, the issue is timely, he added, since the personnel manual for the new consolidated Princeton is being drafted. It will be based on the former Princeton Township’s manual but changes will have to be made, said Mr. Bruschi, so that “the chief officer of the town is not put in a position where there is a conflict of interest or an appearance of such.”

“If a chief officer finds any problem, this time it was nepotism but it might be something else, whatever the issue is, it will be resolved by the chief officer taking the problem to the personnel committee for approval. They would have to sign off on it,” said Mr. Bruschi.

Mr. Bruschi’s draft of the new policy will make its way to the council. Mr. Bruschi said the new policy could require that the personnel committee vet the hiring of relatives of top municipal officials. Any changes would have to be approved by the full council.

Mayor Lempert said that once Mr. Bruschi’s recommendations are shared with the personnel committee in a meeting later this month, the matter will go to the full council meeting in early-mid March.

“I’ve spoken with Ms. Monzo who has been upset that people might insinuate that something untoward was going on,” said Mr. Bruschi. “I am satisfied that the matter is resolved. Ms. Monzo is an asset to the community and her daughter Jacqueline is a talented individual right for the job. The matter is behind us.”

Ms. Monzo, who would be well-placed to succeed Mr. Bruschi when he retires, will face no disciplinary action, he said.

Mr. Liverman commended Ms. Monzo for long hours of dedicated work. “People can lose sight of the bigger picture,” he said.