Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Burchett and his buddies, or not

I've been hearing some rumors in the wake of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's plans to lay off employees.

In recent weeks a number of folks have called or emailed, telling me that he's hired his own family members, he's hired his wife's family members, and he's hired his old fraternity running mates.

OK, I'm pretty sure the first two aren't true, based on checking recent human resource department records.

Now for the third category.

Here's exactly how the tip was worded:

"Burchett hired two people for the Risk Management office who don't really do anything.”

The caller then said “he's hiring old fraternity connections.”

It can be tough to substantiate these type of claims. But I called the mayor. Twice. (If he did something wrong he's not going to tell me, but it was worth making a call.)

Burchett (pictured above) said all county employees under the executive branch purview go “through the normal hiring process,” which means submitting an application to the human resources department.

“I don't get in on the hirings,” he said, adding that he knocked on 6,000 doors during his campaign, and grew up – the son of two well-known local educators – in Knoxville his entire life. “Out of 900 employees, chances are I'm going to know more than one.”

Do these guys work, I asked, or are they hiding away in a cubby hole and pulling in free money.

“If they aren't working, then they're going to find themselves on the unemployment line,” Burchett said.

He said if the two new hires are not working, then “they're going to find themselves on the unemployment line.”

At least one of the new hires is, however, a member of the mayor's old fraternity, Sigma Chi. But, so are our two US Senators, the governor and John Wayne were members, Burchett pointed out, insinuating that there was no connection.

I'm not defending the mayor. I'm just laying out what I've learned.

So, what about the two new workers?

The so-called fraternity member applied for an “assistant risk officer” position. The duties include a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that I'm too lazy to translate for you. Minimum training includes a bachelor's degree in any number of subjects. The person who got this job listed $85,000 as an expected salary. He was hired Dec. 6 and makes $52,139.41.

(He did not include a resume with his application, which says he graduated from the University of Tennessee, but doesn't list a degree earned. His past jobs are in sales and management, according to the application. I hope his interview was more spectacular than what's available publicly.)

The other new hire got paid more in the ballpark he requested. Risk Management hired a new “OSHA coordinator” Oct. 25, and he earns $35,802. He listed “$34,271-$47,980” as an expected salary on his application. He, too, graduated from UT and earned a degree in finance – which appears to be one of the requirements for the job.

(On a side note, he actually submitted a resume that listed a number of safety and security, and inspection-related experience.)

There you have it.

You be the judge.

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