Union Chief Questions James Appointment

Paul Bass PhotosJackie James’ new job title—deputy community services administrator—was up on the door of her new City Hall office Friday. The office itself was empty, as Mayor Toni Harp and the city’s management union disagreed about whether James in fact has the job.

The confusing turn of events occurred two days after Harp, at her inauguration, confirmed that she had chosen James to serve as her deputy for community services, which oversees health, youth, and other city programs for the needy. (Read about that here.)

She is working in “acting” capacity and reporting to Ron Manning, who previously held the deputy job; Manning is now serving as acting community services chief while Harp seeks a permanent hire.

As a result, James resigned her position as Ward 3 alder, dropped out of the race for the open 10th State Senate District seat, and announced she will not seek reelection as Democratic Town Committee chairwoman. She attended an emergency storm briefing Thursday, identifying herself as the community-services deputy when officials took turns introducing themselves. (She’s pictured at left in the top photo, at that meeting.)

Cherlyn Poindexter, president of the AFSCME Local 3144, which represents management employees, subsequently raised objections with the administration. She said under the union contract she needs to sign off on any appointments to the community services deputy job, which is a civil-service position that needs to be tested.

On Friday, Mayor Harp told the Independent all the problems had been ironed out. She said that James will begin working Monday in the position, in the “acting” capacity. Harp said that her understanding is that she doesn’t technically need the union’s sign-off. But she said she chose to seek it anyway, to act in good faith.

“It can happen without the sign-off. But would I want to do it without her support? No. I want to support her,” said Harp, who before becoming an elected official helped organize Local 3144 as a city employee in the 1980s. She said her understanding was that Poindexter had met Thursday with Ron Manning and ironed out any objections.

“Not true,” Poindexter responded when contacted by the Independent. She complained that, since she hadn’t “signed off” on it, James’ hiring shouldn’t have been reported as a fact. But she refused to clarify what wasn’t true or to offer any comment about her position on James’ hiring.

Ron Manning said Friday that he and Poindexter did settle the matter Thursday night. He said Poindexter’s main concern was what will happen to Manning himself when a new permanent community services chief comes in. Manning reassured her that James is serving in an acting capacity as well, and that Manning can return to the slot if he wishes. “I’ve already done this three or four times before,” Manning said of serving as a transitional acting chief when someone has left the permanent position.

Contacted Friday, James said she had the day off and plans to return to work on Monday.

Paul Bass PhotoWorking on the issue is the city’s new labor relations director, Mendi Blue (at right in photo, at the city’s Emergency Operations Center Thursday). Harp confirmed Friday that she has named Blue, a New Haven native who earned a law degree as well as a Harvard MBA, to the position. She also confirmed that Rebecca Bombero is serving as acting director of the parks department.

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posted by: NHV Greenie on January 3, 2014  2:52pm

Happy new year, New Haven.  Get used to this administration bending or changing or ignoring the rules.  Whoever runs Harp’s PR has got their work cut out for them.

posted by: webblog on January 3, 2014  3:36pm

This is indeed a confusing turn of events, neither Harp, Manning or Poindexter appear to know the civil service law as it relates to this position. If it is a civil service position the city would first have to go to the open civil list, if any.

Ms. Poindexter does not have veto power over this matter; if she has an objection she should institute a grievance. 

It does not appear the Chief of staff was involved in order to properly vet the hiring procedure together with the Human Resources director. Secondly, it is questionable whether this position is a mayoralty appointed position.

Until these matters are clarified, the story strongly suggest to this reader, to be just another political patronage gig.

While Harp deserves a honey-moon period from critics of up to 100 days, please don’t perform like a critic’s best gift, which keeps on giving.

posted by: Greg-Morehead on January 3, 2014  3:50pm

And it continues…..

Its amazing how, James has the day off, so that all of the “problems” can be ironed out. Everything just keeps getting swept under the rug.
I thought Jackie had a regular 9-5 with the state? What happens with her regular job?

I’m just sitting back and counting the many people that have their hands out for a job from the election. Its sad!

Thanks Mrs. Poindexter for enforcing the rules!

posted by: Guido Brunetti on January 3, 2014  3:54pm

My sentiments exactly Ms. Poindexter! What will happen to Manning ‘s position when a permanent CSA is appointed?

His explanation does not address the issue of an additional deputy USA appointment. Clearly Mayor Harp wants James for the job.

When Manning served as transitional CSA on previous occasions, no one was filling in for his job. So I reiterate, only one deputy position is budgeted. Where will the money come from to pay a second CSA salary?

Perhaps the Commission on Equal Opportunities director position is available. I believe it is currently an appointment,not Civil Service.

posted by: Noteworthy on January 3, 2014  4:21pm

It starts already..or rather continues. lol. You can’t make this stuff up.

posted by: darnell on January 3, 2014  5:07pm

So I can tell from some of the regular commentators, the general consensus is that Mayor Harp shouldn’t make ANY appointments whatsoever. Come on guys, really? Many of you commentators I respect and have agreed with 90% of the time, but this just seems like a little sour grapes. Ron Manning, who I worked with while on the city payroll and have much respect, doesn’t seem to have an issue. Jackie certainly has the background, certifications and experience to do the job. So what is the problem? I wonder if the tables were turned and Elicker was putting people he trusted into position would we be having the same debate from the same people. Hmmmmm, makes you wonder.

posted by: oldnewhaven77777 on January 3, 2014  5:08pm

I love New Haven politics. A little history about the third ward. I remember when Tony Dawson was the alderman in Third Ward. He lost to Miguel Pittman and Juan Candelaria. The reason Miguel Pittman didn’t get the seat was the black votes were spilt between him and Tony. Miguel would have won by a 3 to 1 margin against Juan Candelaria if Tony had withdrew from the race. The door is open again. Will Miguel Pittman run for that seat in a special election or his wife Sandra? They are Icons in the community. We will see.

posted by: Guido Brunetti on January 3, 2014  6:14pm

Should we not expect our leaders to make informed decisions? Clearly this was not! You end up wasting time and energy and providing ammunition for your critics.

Why have advisors such as a Chief of Staff if you don’t consult with them?

posted by: Anderson Scooper on January 3, 2014  8:22pm

M-I-C, K-E-Y….

Rules? Rules are for fools! The next thing you know, someone will be asking Mayor Harp to pay the $15-20,000 in building fees on the family mansion, which somehow remain outstanding to the City of New Haven…

posted by: Anderson Scooper on January 3, 2014  8:26pm

Also, is their some reason why Jackie James wasn’t just named to the senior position, which is meant to be a mayoral appointment. Does CSA Chief require a degree or experience that James doesn’t possess?

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on January 4, 2014  3:18am

@darnell - if it’s a Civil Service job then it doesn’t get filled by mayoral appointment, period.  It gets filled by a standard, regulated hiring procedure.

*waves at Mendi, another one of my former Sunday school kids*

posted by: darnell on January 4, 2014  1:02pm

I did not originally support this campaign (or any for that matter) and came very late to the game; I am not a candidate for any position in the administration (since I haven’t asked, forwarded my resume, or heard from them…lol); and I am as surprised as many at the announcement (not because James is not qualified, since she is eminently well suited for the job); and I would have the same comments for an Elicker, Carolina or even a DeStefano administration. They have the right to appoint whomever they want and trust to get the job and vision done, whether or not we believe them to be qualified or not.

So, these make believe issues are bull. I didn’t hear any of you yelling from the rafters when DeStefano named an unqualified and non experience women’s clothing store manager to the Director of Traffic and Parking; or an untrained and inexperience young lady to Deputy Finance Director; nor did I hear a peep when he appointed an new fresh face inexperienced (yet very nice)recent graduate to the CAO position. NOT A SOUND! Now you folks have the audacity to complain about this appointment, and several others. I NEVER throw out the card, but there is one GLARING difference with the DeStefano appointments, and Mayor Harp’s; I hope it isn’t so, but it just looks to be.

@Gretchen, where does it say that it is a civil service job?

@Anderson Scooper, maybe they didn’t appoint her to the directors job because they want her to serve under a more experienced administrator; so now your argument against her appointment is that she wasn’t appointed to another job? Laughable.

Please get over the fact that Toni Harp won, and respect the wishes of the majority that voted for her and wish her and this city good fortunes. Please stop acting like the national Republican Party. Yes, she was adopted but was born in the US, and is a citizen. No, she is not Muslim (even though that wouldn’t, or shouldn’t make a difference). Move on and be supportive of our legally elected Mayor.

posted by: Guido Brunetti on January 4, 2014  1:09pm

Just what I thought GP-if a position is civil service, it can not be appointed by the mayor. This is basic information. There are separate lists of both civil service and mayoral appointed positions. That is if due diligence is performed.

Once again only one deputy CSA is budgeted. Subsequent to the hiring of a permanent CSA, where were the funds comming from to pay a second salary?!

posted by: FacChec on January 4, 2014  2:24pm

According to the city department of Human Resources, between 2013 and 2009 there were as least nine(9) deputy director positions requiring testing in accordance with civil service rules.

Judging from historical data, when a vacancy occurs for Deputy director positions, the position follows civil service rules for testing, and not Mayoral appointment.

posted by: darnell on January 4, 2014  9:30pm

First off, you shouldn’t make assumption whether or not that position is civil service just because others with the title “deputy” are. There are several positions with the Title “Director” that were civil service, and there are just as many that are not. I do not know if it is civil service or not, but that isn’t really the point right now. She was appointed in an “acting” position, so be it.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on January 5, 2014  12:13am


My question as to why James was appointed to a job which doesn’t seem to ordinarily be filled by appointment, instead of one that is, remains a legitimate question in this mess. In that four-person department, the deputy position pays $100,000, and the chief position pays $112,000. Therefore does it really matter who is titularly the boss?

Fwiw, at no point have I questioned Ms. James’ qualifications to be leading the CSA department, as Jackie has significant work experience, and I’m quite sure she is at least as qualified as her predecessor. (I’m also in the dark as to what the work of this department actually entails.)

In terms of your insistence that we all be falling in line behind a Harp administration ,—well, that’s not my job. Instead I remain intensely skeptical of Team Harp, although I hope my fears will be proven wrong. I do believe it would help if Mayor Harp started dotting her i’s and crossing her t’s, as in the absence of that I’m worried we might end up with an “anything goes” City Hall, a la Hartford or Bridgeport.

Finally as to acting like a Republican? Good grief man! I mean weren’t you the person actively working to get Linda McMahon elected to the US Senate….

posted by: Guido Brunetti on January 5, 2014  2:00pm

Anderson- You have endeared me with your McMahon reference. Also I too, am not objecting to a specific individual, but following the proper established appointment process.

There is only one deputy CSA in the budget. Subsequent to the hiring of a permanent CSA, where will the funds come from to hire a second deputy?

Also you will now have 2 employees performing the
same job, perhaps the salary could be divided. LOL!

Vigilant taxpayer watch dog group, this issue
has been handed to you on the proverbial silver platter. Happy New Year!

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on January 5, 2014  4:16pm

These are exciting times for the city.  Mayor Harp has at her behest, two individuals that are ardent professionals. Both Ron and Jackie are more than qualified to assume either position.

I applaud Ms. C. Poindexter for ensuring that things are done properly.  That said, knowing Mayor Harp as I do, I suggest you Harp haters just pump your brakes, because under this administration, the matter will be handled correctly.

posted by: FacChec on January 5, 2014  6:28pm

Brian L. Jenkins,

There is one immportant but subtle fact you both seem to have missed. In the second photo above Ms. James has manufactured a sign for her door which does not make reference to a acting position. This sign had to be manufactured before Harp announced the “acting appointment”. However, “Ron Manning reassured her (poindexter) that James is serving in an acting capacity”.

It appears that James, in her haste did not get the memo.

posted by: darnell on January 5, 2014  7:17pm

Anderson & Maisie, after you two finish your love fest, please review the FACTS below.

1. It is you two who are acting exactly like the national Republican Party. You oppose every decision made by the new mayor without giving her an opportunity to pass or fail with time. Just like the nat’l Repubs and their opposition to our current president.

2. I don’t deny any decisions I have made in the past. I don’t run from them, nor do I hide under fake IDs. I support or oppose folks and decisions based on facts, not on affiliations or titles. I supported and worked for Rev. Jesse Jackson’s (Democrat) first presidential campaign, traveling throughout the country at the tender age of 21.

I worked for the congressional campaign, and then the staff of Cong. Bruce Morrison (Democrat), the former head of Legal Aide in New Haven.

I worked for a African American female congressional candidate in North Carolina. She happened to be a Republican.

I worked for the campaign of Lowell Weicker, the Republican turned Independent, when he successfully ran for Governor.

I worked for the campaign of Linda McMahon (Republican), who was probably more of an Independent. Remember, she actually supported democrats AND republicans previous to her run for senate.

I supported these people for various reasons, I found similarities and a streak of independence that I liked. That is my history and who I am. I don’t hide my support for people I believe are good candidates, and I certainly do not belong to a club, or mob that attacks anyone independent enough to say NO once in a while.

When’s the last time one of you have supported a non Democrat? Are you independent and forward thinking enough to look at the person and the issues, and not the title?

posted by: darnell on January 5, 2014  10:57pm


So I guess the assumption is that if you say it, it must be true. What evidence do you have that Jackie “manufactured” the sign for her office? We must assume that you must be an administration insider since you “know” that the sign was produced by Jackie before Mayor Harp announced the appointment, even though that couldn’t possibly be true since the appointment was “announced” at the inauguration. I work for the previous administration, and when we arrived at city hall our offices were assigned and ready, along with signs. I know, without a doubt and with “informed” knowledge, that Jackie did not produce that sign herself. I guess you, in your haste to announce “facts” that are assumptions that are very probably not correct, did not get the memo.

posted by: 32knot on January 6, 2014  9:22am

How the heck did the Republican Party get dragged into this discussion??  This reminds of the old joke that says Democrats are only united in oppositision to the Republicans.