For the past several years, two of Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano’s children have worked seasonal jobs for the city under Youth Services programs, earning around minimum wage in two separate city departments.
Now 19 and 20, and in college, those children are the city-employed family members Council Democrat Hope Kasper was referring to this week in a denouncing the mayor for his criticism of what he described as the Board of Education’s improper patronage practices in hiring Kasper’s son-in-law.
Giuliano’s daughter, Francesca Giuliano, and son, Paul Giuliano, each have worked summers in recent years for the city under youth employment programs. Francesca works 24 hours per week in the Public Works Department and Paul works 40 hours per week in the Parks and Recreation Department. Both jobs will end in August and both of the Giuliano children earn less than $9 per hour, according to city payroll officials. Neither receives benefits.
In her letter and in interviews this week, Kasper accused the mayor of a double standard for suing the Board of Education over its hiring of her son-in-law and , while two of his children worked for the city.
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Kasper said today. She also said the mayor’s effort to remove her son-in-law, Joshua Burger, from his job with the school system is politically motivated.
“It’s all political,” she said. “He’s desperate at this point, so he had to come out and attack my family.”
Giuliano is heading into a tough re-election campaign this year and is being challenged by Daniel Drew, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Giuliano two years ago.
In her letter, Kasper, a Democrat, also accused Giuliano, a Republican, of hiring his own children for the city jobs. Giuliano said that allegation is untrue. Both his children, he said, were hired through the youth programs with no input from his office. In addition, he said, everyone who applied for jobs under those programs were hired.
He also said he does not oppose the hiring of family members of city officials and workers, but believes Burger’s hiring was improper and violates the city’s charter. He is suing the board to overturn Burger’s hiring and a Middlesex Superior Court judge will hear arguments on his injunction request on Monday.
“As far as patronage is concerned, it’s a fact of life and it’s not improper,” he said, provided the job candidate is qualified. “But picking people solely because they’re your supporters or family is not right.”
Giuliano said Kasper used her position to help her son-in-law get the job and is now trying to deflect criticism onto him. Kasper chairs the city’s Personnel Review Commission.
“It’s a desperate move on her part because she got caught,” he said.
The dispute is part of a larger turf war between the mayor and school officials. When Giuliano sought to appoint the candidate of his choice for the school payroll job earlier this year, the school board rejected his candidate, froze the position, then created a new, temporary job and appointed Burger to it. Burger earns $20.46 hourly in that job and receives benefits.
Giuliano has said that Burger was one of nine finalists for the job, but came in last on the qualification rankings out of those nine candidates. He said the candidate he selected for the job, Judith Liseo, a customer services representative for Webster Bank, ranked seventh out of ninth.
When asked why he didn’t select the top-ranked candidate, Giuliano said “the rankings are subjective, anyway.”
Kasper alleges that Liseo is a family friend of the mayor’s. Giuliano said she is not.
While Kasper has maintained that she had nothing to do with her son-in-law’s hiring, she admits she was stung that Giuliano passed him over because Burger needed the job and Giuliano knew that. Burger’s wife, Kasper’s daughter, had carried the family’s medical benefits until she died several years ago after having a baby, leaving Burger and his young child without medical coverage.
Both Giuliano and Kasper acknowledge that patronage is common in Middletown and many employees are related to city leaders or other city workers.
For instance, the nephew of council Democrat Thomas Serra works in the parks department and one of Kasper’s grandchildren also works for the city in one of its summer youth programs.
“There are big families here who have long roots in the city,” Giuliano said. “It’s almost impossible to not have people (working for the city) who are not related to each other.”