DuPage Co. explains summer hiring program, denies nepotism
DuPage County officials defended their summer hiring program Tuesday, saying there's no indication of a nepotism problem and explaining that all jobs are available to any interested applicants.
The issue was once again debated during the county board's finance committee meeting. Human Resources Director Cara Perrone said applicants are asked to fill out a series of broad questions about availability and preferred work. The applications are screened by the county's personnel department, and then applicants are passed on to department heads who make the final hiring decision, she said.
Some summer workers who were previously employed by the county are hired back by departments without going through the application process.
However, the committee did not discuss previous concerns that some of the 172 summer jobs were going to relatives of county employees.
So far, 92 of the summer jobs have been filled. Perrone's department could not provide a list of how many of those summer workers are related to full-time county employees. Board member Debra Olson estimated earlier that about 20 of the workers were related to county employees.
A list provided by Perrone's office after a Freedom of Information request was filed by the Daily Herald showed several last name matches of summer workers and full-time employees. Some notable matches include county board member Don Puchalski's daughter working her second summer for County Clerk Gary King. The son of county transportation chief John Kos is in his fifth year working for the public works department. The list also shows State's Attorney Joseph Birkett's son is employed full-time with the county, and his daughter is employed for the summer.
"Like many of the hundreds of kids I've employed over the years, my daughter is interested in a career in law," Birkett said. "She is working part-time, four hours in the morning and gong to school in the afternoon."
Birkett said his kids have grown up in the DuPage State's Attorney office during his 28 years there. He said his two children often volunteered before there were volunteer programs. His son now works as a records clerk in the misdemeanor division after going through the same hiring process as any other employee, Birkett said.
"Anybody who wants to make a case about nepotism can say that, but when he applied he went through the same regimen as anyone else, including background checks," Birkett said.
Birkett's office takes in 10 summer workers who receive college credit for their work, 10 other summer workers are paid interns, about 12 are paid part-time employees during the summer and another 10 positions are unpaid volunteers, he said.
Still, some county board members expressed concerns about the summer applications not being accessible through the county's job posting site. Finance committee Chairman Paul Fichtner said they will be accessible there in the future.
Fichtner also said the county's personnel policy does not currently address nepotism, but a new policy is in the works and it should be up for debate in a month. The summer hiring program will also be addressed in the new personnel policy.
He also said there are "common sense" solutions to any concerns about nepotism.
"I don't think there should ever be a situation where your relative works under your responsibility," he said. "There can be some improvements made to our personnel policy."