EAST LIVERPOOL Councilman and retired city firefighter Ray Perorazio took his concerns about the hiring of two firefighters to the Civil Service Commission Wednesday, saying the action was at least "improper."
The same issue came up at the previous night's City Council meeting, with Perorazio and two residents complaining the hiring of firemen Jason Glista and Aaron Jones was not proper since Glista has dated the daughter of Chief Bill Jones and Aaron Jones is the chief's son.
Perorazio presented the commission with copies of state law outlining the rules for civil service exams and appointments, as well as a copy of the legal advertisement for the December 2011 firefighter exam both men took, which was published on three separate dates in October.
Although the ad gives several requirements for applicants, it does not mention prior firefighter training, and Perorazio focused his comments on that, saying if Glista and Jones were hired based on their prior training, that means it was a requirement and should have been included in the ad.
"They willfully said they hired the last guy because he had training," Perorazio insisted, apparently referring to Chief Jones and Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell, who has emphasized that he, not the chief, does the hiring.
He cited a specific clause in the law stating, "If minimum or maximum requirements are established for any examination, they shall be specified in the examination announcement."
Commission Chairman John Fisher told Perorazio several times that prior training is not a requirement to take the exam, stressing that the "minimum requirement" is a 70 percent score to pass the written exam. No maximum requirements have been established.
Candidates must also pass an agility test to be eligible for an interview, during which interviewers go over what training or experience candidates might have, he said.
"If you had two college graduates, one with three years of experience and one without, which would you choose?" Fisher asked rhetorically.
"Do you know how unfair this is?" Perorazio asked, referring to the recent hirings, but Fisher pointed out two others with training turned down the job, and Commission member Marisa Galeoti said, "Two didn't have a shot because they had a criminal background."
Fisher asked, "Were you interviewed?" when hired into the fire department, with Perorazio replying, "Absolutely."
He told the commission he had no prior training and, although he had high test scores, was "passed over" several times because some thought he would be a "troublemaker."
It wasn't until former Safety-Service Director Skip Hall asked why he hadn't been hired and Perorazio told him about his reputation that Hall appointed him. He served for 38 years on the department.
"I'm kind of appalled that you got the job because you knew someone," Fisher deadpanned, prompting Perorazio to fire back, "He didn't manage to get a job for me; he was the service-safety director, and he appointed me. We were trained after we got the job."
Perorazio said, "There's no doubt in my mind this was wrong. If it isn't illegal, it's certainly improper."
Saying he "wasn't satisfied" with what he had heard during the meeting, Perorazio said he is willing to await a legal opinion from the law director.
Councilman Russell Dray also attended, saying only, "I don't think it's totally right," but agreeing to wait for the legal opinion.
Resident Brian Kerr, who spoke on the issue at the council session, attended the commission meeting but did not comment.
Commission members said none of the applicants on the eligibility list who were not hired have filed a complaint about the hiring of Glista and Jones.
In routine business, the commission voted 3-0 in favor of Aaron Jones' appointment to the fire department effective Aug. 2 at an annual salary of $31,000.
Other appointments approved included Patrolman Shawn McClellan, effective May 11 at a salary of $13.66 per hour and refuse and recycling laborer Gary Blake, effective June 4 at $10 per hour.
Asked why Jones' salary was calculated annually instead of hourly like the other appointments, Clerk Jane Miller was unsure, saying that was how it was presented to the commission from the city and saying she had never seen it done that way before.