Sometimes, it’s less than meets the eye
Herald-News editorial August 23, 2012 6:52PM
Updated: September 25, 2012 10:39AM
Nepotism is a political wart that damages fairness and competence as well as public trust in government. It’s the result of arrogance and clout, part of the mix in a political fix.
A person of political influence gets a relative a job on the government payroll. Somebody with better qualifications gets aced out. It’s usually easy to recognize.
But claiming nepotism doesn’t make it so.
Take Ryan Lincoln, for example.
If he gets a job he has long wanted as a Joliet firefighter, we doubt it will have much to do with his grandfather being the mayor as some suggest with a knowing nod. He’s been on the department’s hiring list for five years, starting on the 130-name list barely at the midpoint. Because of others being removed from the list because they no longer meet all requirements, Lincoln is now No. 7, which means he would be among the eight probationary firefighters hired under a $2 million federal grant.
If this is being sold as a subtle form of nepotism, it’s not leaving a footprint. It seems to us that if you were to get a secure, well-paying job (starting salary of $57,000) via your family connections, it would have gone much quicker and easier than it has for Lincoln.
Four other members of the family of Mayor Thomas Giarrante, himself a former Joliet firefighter, serve on local fire departments, including two nephews on Joliet’s force, and there’s no evidence the mayor did anything to grease their way. He said his only role was talking to them about his firefighting career, which apparently inspired them to pursue it as well.
The Lincoln issue subtly clouded an honest difference of opinion over the $2 million grant, which aldermen have approved and that comes with strings — for example, the city can’t let fire department jobs go dark while using the federal money for new hires. But there’s an appeal process to grant exemptions.
Adding the jobs means the Joliet Fire Department won’t have to pay as much overtime, a bill that will push $900,000 this year. That also means the feds expect the city to maintain a full firefighter force of 210.
There’s plenty of room for skepticism regarding local government, but sometimes (admittedly the exception) what appears to be nepotism is not. We think that’s the case with Lincoln, who has waited in line just like everyone else.