Syracuse hires string of women — but is it progress if it looks like nepotism?

March 27, 2013

I’m all for “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” day. It gives girls — and now boys — a chance to experience the workplace and encourages them to think about their own career aspirations. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event, held on the fourth Thursday of April, founded by Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine.

Forbes magazine even offers advice on what to do — and not do — when taking your child or someone else’s offspring to work. Maybe someone at City Hall in Syracuse, N.Y., should have read the Forbes article. Because somehow I don’t think that consistently hiring the daughters of city officials or of prominent Democrats (who just happen to have contributed to the mayor’s campaign) is what the program is all about.

Sunday’s edition of The Post-Standard featured the headline “At Syracuse City Hall law office, every day is ‘Take Our Daughters To Work Day,’” calling attention to the fact that six of the seven city attorneys hired since Stephanie Miner became mayor in January 2010 are the daughters of city employees or of politicians who’ve supported Miner.

The six women, with salaries ranging from $52,500 to $70,000, include three who are the daughters of the commissioner of public works, a city engineer and the recently retired fire chief, while the other three have parents that have contributed to Miner’s campaign committee in the past.

This isn’t the first time the Post-Standard has reported on the matter. In September 2011, Meghan S. Gaffey was hired for a city attorney position after Miner had rescinded a job offer to an Illinois couple who had quit their jobs and sold their home, planning to move closer to family. Miner said she had not approved of the job offers, made by her corporation counsel who later resigned.

Gaffey, according to the Post-Standard, is the daughter of a county judge and step-daughter of a contributor to Miner’s campaign.

Although most of the cases are daughters, Miner’s step-son Terrence Mannion, a founding partner of the law firm Mannion Copani, submitted a bill to the city for more than $100,000 for three years of legal fees, according to the Post-Standard in an article last month.

I’m all for women breaking new ground. Miner is the first woman mayor in the history of Syracuse. Every time a woman is the “first” — the first mayor, governor, congresswoman or senator — I applaud (well, there might be a few I’m not so fond of….). And, of course, I’m still waiting for the first woman president.

It’s not fair to hold women politicians and officials to a higher standard than men, but I’d like to believe we women are better — that because it’s taken us so long to reach positions of power, we will do everything in our power to do the right thing.

And the situation at Syracuse’s City Hall just doesn’t feel right. These young women may be well qualified for the positions they hold, but it certainly seems like, when looking for certain jobs in the Syracuse City Hall, family connections trump resumes.

Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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Mary C. Curtis · March 27, 2013