LAUREL – While a retired circuit court judge hired by the city continues to investigate a former city employee’s accusations of unscrupulous hiring practices, the city staff are holding off on recommending changes to the Mayor and City Council until the investigation is complete.
Mayor Craig Moe said he solicited former Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge Steven Platt of The Platt Group, Inc., to investigate the hiring practices within the city after a concerned citizen, former city police officer Carl Dewalt, came forward in February accusing senior city staff of practicing nepotism, the pracitice of favoring friends and relatives for jobs.
According to Audrey Barnes, director of communications for Laurel, the city is paying the Platt Group $5,000 for the completion of the first part of the report and an additional $2,500 when it completes part two.
“I did my internal review, but I can sit here all day long and say everything is cool,” Moe said. “I felt it was important to have an independent review with the Platt Group. I’m not sure I agree with everything that (Dewalt) said, but I think he made some serious accusations that I thought needed to be looked into by a neutral party.”
Platt released the first part of his review of the city’s hiring practices at the end of July, recommending technical changes to city’s ethics policy. The second and final part of Platt’s review will be released by the end of September.
Carl Dewalt said at a Laurel City Council meeting on Feb. 10 he felt there were unfair hiring practices when a relative of a city councilman got a job offer with the city.
According to Platt, Dewalt had applied for the same position and felt the official hiring decision was unfair to him and other job applicants.
Platt said he interviewed seven randomly chosen employees who work for the city government. Platt said none of the employees he spoke to had experienced nepotism by city staff.
Platt then asked the employees if they knew of other employees who might have a different perspective, but they had no such suggestions, according to the report.
Platt concluded in his report the city should change the title of Article IV, Division I, Subsection (i) of the City of Laurel Public Ethics Ordinance from “Nepotism” to “Anti-Nepotism Policy.”
Barnes said the city will change the name of their nepotism policy in compliance with Platt’s recommendations.
Moe said Platt’s report pleased him and he looks forward to making the technical changes to the city’s policies.
“We’ve got people that work in the city government that do human resources and I think they try hard to keep us current on all walls and practices and keep us out of trouble when we interview,” Moe said. “I was glad to see the results of the first part.”
Platt said the second part of his review will focus specifically on Dewalt’s case.
“The law is that you can’t hire somebody because of a relationship, but you also can’t not hire them because of that,” Platt said. “You couldn’t have a policy that says ‘If you’re related to somebody that works for the city government or is an elected official, we will not hire you.’ That policy itself is illegal.”