Lesson learned? Let's hope
9/27/2019, 6 a.m.
It is unfortunate that Selena Cuffee-Glenn, the city’s now former chief administrative officer, had to be cut loose from the City of Richmond. But we applaud Mayor Levar M. Stoney for making the right decision swiftly following the release of the inspector general’s report that found five of Ms. Cuffee-Glenn’s relatives are on the city payroll.
The five include Ms. Cuffee-Glenn’s daughter, a recent graduate of Old Dominion University, a niece, two second cousins and a spouse of one of the cous- ins. According to the report, all were hired by the city between January and March.
While the report found that Ms. Cuffee-Glenn didn’t have direct involvement in their hiring, particularly that of her daughter, at least two of the CAO’s high-level subordinates did — the directors of the city Department of Public Works and the Department of Public Utilities.
Ms. Cuffee-Glenn’s daughter ultimately was hired to work for the Public Utilities at an hourly pay rate higher than all but two city workers with the same job title. While the city’s Human Resources Department first balked at the high salary, the pay rate was approved.
Ms. Cuffee-Glenn has been an executive administrative professional in municipal government for more than three decades, serving as Suffolk city manager and formerly as head of planning and community development for the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
She also has served admirably in Richmond, first under former Mayor Dwight C. Jones and continuing under Mayor Stoney.
With that long experience, Ms. Cuffee-Glenn must understand how nepotism — or even the appearance of nepotism — can be toxic to an organization. No municipality or taxpayer-funded agency or organization, including the City of Richmond, should be a gravy train for top administrators’ family and friends. Nor should the government be put in a position as being viewed as such. It harms the public trust in our city government and casts aspersions on the administration of the mayor and the more than 4,000 city employees who work hard each and every day to provide services to Richmond residents.
Even after Ms. Cuffee-Glenn’s departure, the episode leaves lingering doubts about how her relatives got their jobs regardless of their competence, knowledge, skills and abilities.
Additionally, the hiring of family and friends can have an detrimental impact on the morale of employees in the same department, particularly if they believe there is favoritism in work assignments, special treatment in workplace rewards and punishment and unfairness in any promotion or raises.
Clearly, the hiring of Ms. Cuffee-Glenn’s relatives was enough to raise the hackles of someone who complained, which led to the investigation by the inspector general.
We mistakenly believed Ms. Cuffee-Glenn and other top city officials learned from the 2016 probe of Mayor Jones’ administration by the city auditor, the State Police and former Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring. That probe exposed the number of top city employees who were members of Mayor Jones’ church, including the director of the city Department of Public Works at the time, who was supervising construction of the church’s new sanctuary in Chesterfield County on city time.
While Mr. Herring and the State Police concluded that no criminal laws were violated, the Public Works director was made by Ms. Cuffee-Glenn to forfeit nearly a week’s vacation pay to make up for the time he spent working on the church project while on the city’s clock. He also was dismissed from his job when Mayor Stoney took office.
The business of the city is too important to be bogged down by such internal turmoil.
We wish Ms. Cuffee-Glenn the best and hope the city can move forward.
We also hope the chapter on nepotism and cronyism in Richmond city government can be closed.