State Senate Offspring Judicial Apprenticeship Program Continues

Thanks to the weekly Political Scene column in the Providence Journal, we have learned that more legislative kin are being employed in our judiciary.

A relative choice

Another member of the family of longtime state Sen. John F. McBurney has landed a job in the state courts.

The senator’s nephew, Gregory M. McBurney, was given the $28,147 job that his son, John F. McBurney IV , had held, as an administrative aide in the jury commissioner’s office, until his promotion in November to a higher-paying spot — which had been held, until her promotion, by the daughter of former Senators Paul and Sandra Hanaway.

Got it?

Court spokeswoman Dyana Koelsch said Gregory McBurney, 23, was deemed the “most qualified” of 37 applicants by jury commissioner Eugene McMahon , because he had a bachelor’s degree in justice studies from Roger Williams University, and “was in the top 5 percent of his class, [the] National Honor Society and on the dean’s list. He also is highly experienced with computers and Windows applications.”

But Koelsch made a point of distancing Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams from this and other recent court hires with close Senate connections.

In an e-mail to Political Scene, she wrote: “Please note that hires in lower courts DO NOT fall under the operational control of the chief justice of the Supreme Court, but statutorily are the sole function of the administration of the individual court.

Senator McBurney could not be reached for comment.

Gregory McBurney, who was identified by Koelsch as a nephew of the longtime Pawtucket senator, began his new job last week.

Doesn’t it seem that Ms. Koelsch has had to do a lot of explaining recently? Just last month questions concerning a similar spate of judicial jobs being filled by the relatives of former or current State Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Montalbano’s son, also prompted an explanation from Koelsch and others. Perhaps if the state courts, at all levels, simply stopped hiring the relatives of State Senators, regardless of their qualifications, such explanations would not be required. Given the reported pool of applicants for these jobs, 25 for a data entry position filled by Montalbano’s son and 37 for the position filled by McBurney, I think it safe to say that these sons of senators probably didn’t hold qualifications so unique that not hiring them would have been some sort of employment injustice. Unfair? Perhaps. But chalk it up as the price of being the kid of someone who is “serving” the citizens of Rhode Island.

Now, I must emphasize that highlighting these hirings is neither intended to besmirch the name of any involved nor to indict without evidence. However, I can accuse those involved of not heeding the explicit words of our State Constitution and thus contributing to the perception that Rhode Island is a corrupt state. The Rhode Island Constitution, Article 3, Section 7, states:

Ethical conduct. — The people of the state of Rhode Island believe that public officials and employees must adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct, respect the public trust and the rights of all persons, be open, accountable and responsive, avoid the appearance of impropriety and not use their position for private gain or advantage. Such persons shall hold their positions during good behavior. [emphasis mine]

It was George Washington who believed that men followed their own interests above all else, that it was “interest, the only bonding cement,” that dictated men’s actions. Rightly or wrongly, it is in a Rhode Islanders nature to cast a cynical eye at politicians and their actions. Thus, we must ask, in whose interest is it to have relatives of legislators hired by the state judiciary?

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19 years ago

Having been in the marketing business in this state for a few years, now, I hate to report that this type of behavior extends outwards from government and infects private enterprise. It’s a running joke that the RFP process for any marketing or advertising work is completely rigged, and (most sadly) this type of coziness even affects the executive branch. Although the Governor did a nice job of insuring there would not be any conflict of interest when the several Lincoln Park issues of the past year first came up.
Speaking of which, the Projo has run a few stories discussing how many politicians seem to have relatives working over at Lincoln. That, however, seems to be primarily in the past.

Marc Comtois
19 years ago

My company has responded to a few RFP’s and attended the bid openings only to find some of the same players getting the work. So I understand it’s not just a government->government deal. I might add that the same dynamic is present in Massachusetts (at least from our experience).

Anchor Rising
18 years ago

Judiciary Under On the Seige

One can just about picture the commercial that RI Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams would release to correspond with his recent presentation to the RI Bar Association, “Killing Justice: The Judiciary Under Siege.” It would begin in black and…

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