NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk’s new communications manager, Josh Morgan, started work Thursday, Assistant to the Mayor Laoise King said.
More than 50 people applied for the job created recently by the Common Council by rejiggering the grants coordinator position, according to Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney. To be considered, finalists created a press release from a “hypothetical fact pattern” concerning controversy over the Board of Education’s budget.
Burney declined to turn over the sample press release written by Morgan.
The Council on Feb. 28 approved the proposal to merge the grants coordinator position with communications duties on a 12-1 vote. The job was advertised two days later, with the window of opportunity ending the following Monday.
Burney had been telling Council members that time was of the essence, that Mayor Harry Rilling wanted the change to happen “yesterday.”
Rilling on Tuesday wrote to NancyOnNorwalk:
“During the application process, we received more than 50 resumes. Had we not received a sufficient number of qualified candidates the application process would have been extended. However that was not the case.
“The process took longer than expected because of the number of resumes received. My staff reviewed them, and picked out six of the most qualified applicants. They then had to schedule interviews with each of those applicants and identified the two most qualified. They then scheduled an interview of those two candidates with me.
“Scheduling those interviews took quite a bit of time in order to find dates convenient to everyone. Once an offer of employment was made, we had to discuss the terms of employment, and the candidate was allowed to provide his current employer with sufficient notice that he was leaving.
“There were many rumors circulating claiming that one individual had been offered the position and was going to be the candidate selected. No person was offered the position and it was always our intention to interview interested candidates.
“Mr. Morgan was selected based on his qualifications which most closely met the requirements of the position.”
Morgan received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Connecticut in 2005 and has been Brand and Communications Manager for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England since 2013, according to his resume, which called him a “High-impact public relations and communications professional with 10+ years of experience” with a “Diversified skill set includes writing, editing, media training, graphic design, digital communications and project management.”
Morgan lives in Beacon Falls and was a newspaper reporter for the Chesire Herald from 2007 to 2013, according to his resume, which does not mention experience in grant writing.
“I am excited to join the City of Norwalk as the new Communications Manager/Grant Coordinator on Thursday, May 17,” Morgan wrote to NancyOnNorwalk on Tuesday. “Norwalk is a community rich with different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences and its diversity is what drew me to this position. I am eager to communicate the exciting and important happenings within the City to the public through the media and various online platforms. I plan to use my professional writing skills and project management experience to identify additional grant opportunities and manage what is currently allocated to the City. I hope to enhance communication processes to ensure information reaches the public. Norwalk is a beautiful community with a lot to offer. It is a privilege to be given this opportunity – I cannot wait to get started!”
A Council member speaking off the record mentioned that Morgan has been close to the grant writing process in his role at Planned Parenthood.
The annual salary range for the communications manager was set at $56,315 to $81,344; Morgan will be paid $68,830 a year.
NancyOnNorwalk put in a Freedom of Information request for the test given to candidates.
“It is inconsistent with good HR practices to provide samples of test given or answers provided during an application process. In fact, the FOI provides that tests and exams are exceptions to required disclosures,” Burney replied, promising to check with Corporation Counsel. “… Let me be clear that there is nothing in the responses that I think would reflect poorly on the candidate or the City. In fact, the response was excellent and represents the type of work we expect from the candidate. I am just not comfortable with the prospect of publicizing test questions and answers used in the employment application process.”
Burney provided the test:
HYPOTHETICAL FACT PATTERN
Its budget season in the City and there is much controversy over the budget request from the Board of Education for the upcoming fiscal year. The following circumstances exist:
– The Board of Education budget is funded almost entirely by local taxes collected by the City
– The Board of Education has requested $200 million, which is 10% higher than last year’s budget of $180 million
– The addition $20 million is for improving the overall quality of the school system and to fund some specific new projects that will advance the entire school system
– Approving the $20 million increase in the Board of Education budget would result in an increase tax burden for each City resident of an average of $500, the largest tax increase ever in City history
– The mayor and his staff have recommended a Board of Education budget increase of $10 million, which will increase taxes $250 on the average
– There are loud voices in the community on both sides of this issue; parents who want the money spent on schools and support the large increase, and seniors and others who object to such a large increase in taxes to support schools and want the smaller increase
– This Mayor and his administration have for 3 prior years approved Board of Education budget increases at a much higher rate than prior Mayors did
– The Board of Education has said they will have to lay off some teacher aids and defund some after school programs if they don’t get all the money they requested
At last night’s public meeting on the Board of Education budget demands, the Mayor and his staff were accused by members of the public and by some Board of Education members of not caring about the school system, of not living up to his campaign promises to fund the school system adequately, not caring if employees get laid off or if after school programs are cut, and of not knowing what is best for the City.
The Mayor knows these are emotional issues but is not happy with these attacks on him that he thinks are unfounded. He has recommended a budget that he thinks is a prudent, all things considered. He does think there is the possibility of some middle ground settlement of this budget matter, but does not want to be perceived as caving in to the pressure from last night. He also wants to set the record straight as to his history of providing unprecedented funded levels to the City school system.
Please produce a brief press release for the Mayor that gets his message across, and opens the door to the potential for further discussions with the Board of Education members regarding the budget stalemate.
Council member Doug Hempstead (R-District D), the lone no vote on the job description change, did not reply to an email asking for an opinion about Morgan’s appointment.
Former Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton wrote:
“I believe Ms. King and Mr. Morgan are New Haven acquaintances …so this cake was already baked.
“The mayor’s office can hire whomever they want. What is at issue is the incredulous and disingenuous attempts to try and pretend to taxpayers that there is any sort of open process on anything coming out of the mayors office, be it new hires, promotions or appointments.”
On Thursday, King wrote in an email:
“Josh is a fantastic candidate and we are happy to have him aboard. As I believe you know, the City received over 50 applications for this mid level staff position. We interviewed 6 candidates and Josh immediately stood out as the perfect fit for this position. I had never heard of or met him prior to his coming in for the interview. Josh started today, and I am sure folks will soon see what a great addition he is to the city.”