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A top official in Cleveland Utilities Department hires son in violation of nepotism policy, city investigation says

November 13, 2018

A top official in Cleveland Utilities Department hires son in violation of nepotism policy, city investigation says

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A top official in Cleveland’s Public Utilities Department violated several city policies by hiring her son to work in a position she indirectly oversees, a city investigation has found.

Debra Mitchell, the department’s assistant director, told a manager who directly reports to her to hire her son as an assistant administrator in fleet planning and operations, according to findings by the city’s Division of Internal Audit.

“Based on the support documentation provided and interviews conducted, it has been determined that the assistant director used her position and influence to secure the hiring of an immediate family member as defined in the nepotism policy,” the investigation report states.

The report recommended that Mitchell be disciplined and that her son be reassigned to a position outside her supervision.

City Hall did not respond to a request for an interview with Mitchell. Mayor Frank Jackson’s spokeswoman Latoya Hunter said the Human Resources Department is still reviewing the report and “will come to a conclusion soon.”

The investigation was triggered by a complaint sent to City Hall in August alleging that Mitchell said she would not approve another qualified candidate for an open position if the fleet planning and operational manager did not hire her son. The investigation does not name Mitchell or her son, but identifies them by their titles.

The complaint also alleged that Mitchell completed her son’s performance evaluations, though the investigation did not find evidence that she did so. The report said that her son, who was hired in March 2018, was qualified for the position at the time of his hiring and that his three subsequent probationary evaluations were “marked as outstanding.”

During the investigation, the utilities department revised its hiring policy to require job applicants to disclose wither they are related to anyone who works for the city.

Investigators concluded that Mitchell violated nepotism and ethics policies prohibiting any employee from using his or her authority to secure employment for a family member or to supervise a relative.

Two weeks ago, cleveland.com requested public records on a half-dozen employees in the Public Utilities Department to examine their possible relationship to top officials. The city has said it is still gathering the records.

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