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Mayor Dean, This is an Insult to Libraries and Health

January 29, 2011

I don’t often blog about hyper-local issues that aren’t completely focused on health or reproductive rights, but this story brought to my attention via B’s blog is an important one, I think, for people who care about how government is run and appropriate funding of important and necessary services.

The Nashville City Paper reports that a former government employee has essentially been asked to work a part-time, made-up position in the Nashville’s Department of Finance, for an estimated $60,000 a year. The Finance Director is quoted in the article saying things that make it explicitly clear that this was not an existing job opening, one with clearly defined responsibilities and needed qualifications, that other people were able to compete for.

“We’ll assign him projects as they arise on a case basis.” Because they were “just talking” (hello, good ole boy network), and thought he could help.

You know who actually knows what they’re supposed to do and could use more money? Who would just love to have somebody around to do whatever needed doing, or at least the $60,000 a year?

The Nashville Public Library.

Or the Metro Department of Health.

Or schools, or any number of other departments with real missions to help real people. Real services that people of Nashville need and deserve, in departments that struggle to do everything that needs doing with the limited-and-being-cut funds available.

The Finance Director who is bringing this guy on asked other Metro departments this week to look at a 3% budget cuts. $60,000 a year might be a drop in the bucket compared to 3% of the budget of Metro departments, but it’s the principle of the thing. When a man who is who is buddies with a lot of other men in government – and who is already getting a pension from that government – can get a part time job paying $60,000 a year to do whatever while vital services are being asked to make cuts, something is seriously wrong.

I don’t blame the guy who’s being offered so much money to do who-knows-what – he might be a great guy, and it probably sounds like a pretty good deal to him. I do blame Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, and of course Mayor Karl Dean, who should really put a stop to this. Even if the reporting on this is not the full story, it’s unconscionable to me that somebody could be offered a job that was made up, that nobody else got to apply for, that might pay $60,000/year for whatever, when other vital departments are being asked to make cuts. It’s an insult to people like the public librarians who try to make every dollar stretch to meet the growing needs of the community. Mayor Dean, make it stop.

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