Watson: Nepotism doesn’t have to be a dirty word

     Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams (file/NewsWorks)

    Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams (file/NewsWorks)

    NewsWorks contributor John Watson offers his thoughts on the politics of promotions.

    Here are John’s thoughts:

    Here we go again: Wilmington Mayor Dennis P. Williams faces accusations of making bad decisions.

    First, Williams promoted Bobby Cummings to police chief when many city council members were calling for an outsider to fill the position.

    Now, Cummings promotes William’s son-in-law Jonathan Hall to lieutenant, Hall’s second promotion in 16 months. Previously, he was promoted to sergeant by Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning, who resigned in January.

    Williams is a busy man, but I refuse to believe he made any mistakes in any of this. But it seems that there are those who won’t give any rest to Williams and to those close to him.

    Accusations of nepotism are filling the air all over the City of Wilmington. As I have said before, nepotism is not in and of its self a bad thing: Promoting someone who is unqualified to a good position just because they are a friend or family member is bad nepotism. If they are qualified, it’s good nepotism.

    If you were in a position of authority, would you deny good friends and family that you know are well-qualified? Would you pick the stranger, or somebody that you know can do the job?

    I say, don’t take chances.

    And that’s what we have with Cummings and Hall. Both are well-qualified but are questioned because of their position with the Mayor. It happens all the time, but it’s waste of time from my point of view.

    Hall passed the lieutenant exam with flying colors at the top of the testing band. As noted in the News Journal, the exams are administered by an independent testing company and the test-takers are placed in different categories, or bands, based on their scores. Cummings picked those with the best scores to fill vacancies. 

    As Hall passed the test at the top of the list, why would anyone think it was a wrong pick by Cummings? Since Hall has been served in the WPD since the late 1990s, he is no latecomer to the job.

    As for the problem that some have with Hall being promoted to lieutenant in only 16 months, Alexandra Coppadge, spokesperson for Williams, is quoted in the News Journal as saying, “There are times other officers that have similarly been promoted twice within the last 16 months.”

    While several City Council members that I won’t name have questioned Hall’s qualifications, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 President Harold Bozeman is very supportive of him. The News Journal quoted as Bozeman as saying, “There’s nothing I can point to that Hall was selected because of his family. The Chief saw him as a qualified lieutenant and made the promotion.”

    Bozeman said he can understand how the public will question the promotion, but in this case, the public will have to make up their own minds.

    This reminds me of what I have said in the past about the public and the media making unfair remarks about Velda Jones-Potter, the Mayor’s Chief Strategy Advisor, regarding the controversy over her son Brandon’s Foxtail event. Ultimately, she was fired by Williams after city council hearings, in which Velda was painted as a person I know she never had been and never will be. I consider the firing to be a major mistake.

    I hope Williams and Cummings remember all of this and learned a lesson about making decisions without considering any public or media input.

    Mike Brown, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, had a position we should all understand. Brown explained that some promotional questions are unavoidable when relatives work in city government.

    “You can’t punish an individual because their relative is at the top of something,” Brown said, referencing Hall’s promotion. “For me, he earned it.”

    I hope Williams and Cummings agree with the point of view that Brown and I share: Nepotism is not in and of itself a bad thing.

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