Harp Considers 3 For Labor Relations Chief

Thomas MacMillan/Melissa Bailey Photos

Less than seven years after he showed up at City Hall as a freshman in “Democracy School,” Marcus Paca has emerged as the most likely candidate to fill a top City Hall position.

Paca, a former alder, is one of three finalists for the job of labor relations director, according to Mayor Toni Harp. The others are former mayoral candidate Clifton Graves and Alder Claudette Robinson-Thorpe.

Paca is believed to be the frontrunner of the three.

Harp said she plans to make her final choice next week next week. The job, budgeted at $98,000, was briefly held by Mendi Blue before she moved on to a new city job overseeing grant-writing and policy development. Before that, the labor relations post had been vacant since March 2013, when Marjan Mashhadi stepped down. In absence of a permanent director, the city has paid private attorney Floyd Dugas to negotiate union contracts.

The job was not publicly advertised; Harp said it does not need to be because it is a mayoral appointment.

Thomas MacMillan File PhotoPaca, who’s 37, made his political ambitions known when he showed up in City Hall in 2007 as the “best-dressed” member of the city’s Democracy School, a free program that aims to get citizens involved in government. He served one two-year term as Edgewood alderman before losing reelection in 2011 to Evette Hamilton, one of a slate of union-backed candidates who toppled incumbents.

Unlike recent city labor relations directors—Mashhadi, Dugas, Emmet Hibson, Will Clark, John Romanow—Paca does not have a law degree. He said he holds a bachelor’s in political science from Hampton University in Virginia and a master’s in business administration and management from Southern Connecticut State University.

Paca currently works at Workplace Inc. in Bridgeport under Joe Carbone (who had served as chief of staff to former mayor Biagio DiLieto). Paca said he is working under a federal grant to help unemployed people get back in the workforce. He said he has been working there for almost three years.

Paca declined to detail his other work experience: “I’d rather not go into my background or experience for this position right now.” He said he would grant a more extensive interview if he is offered the job. He said he lives in New Haven; he declined to say where.

Paca, who worked on Harp’s election campaign, said the Harp administration invited him to interview for the job.

He said said he was drawn to the position by “the opportunity to serve my city in a meaningful way.”

“Anything I can do to help our city progress, and have a higher quality of living, I’m going to do,” he said.

He said his experience in Democracy School was “very foretelling” of his future.

Thomas MacMillan File PhotoGraves (pictured), who’s 61, ran for mayor three years ago with Harp’s support. Then he supported Harp’s 2013 mayoral run. Graves holds a law degree from Georgetown University and has an active license to practice law. Asked what qualifies him to be labor relations chief, he said he previously worked at Southern Connecticut State University as the director of affirmative action and diversity. In that job, he worked with unions to “address labor-related issues that had to do with diversity concerns.”

Graves said he is now doing some part-time work with Project Fresh Start, the city’s prison reentry program. He also co-founded a program called Obama Scholars, which aims to help at-risk boys make good choices.

Graves said he put his nae in the mix because he knew Harp would be hiring a labor relations chief.

“I made a commitment to Mayor Harp even before she was elected, that I wanted to be an asset and help to her administration in terms of furthering her agenda and her mission in whatever capacity she felt I could best serve her, her administration and the city,” he said.

Paul Bass File PhotoRobinson-Thorpe has represented Beaver Hills’ Ward 28 since 2010. A social worker, she made her foray into elected office by unseating incumbent Moti Sandman. After breaking ranks with the union-backed supermajority on the board, she lost her position as chair of the Black and Hispanic Caucus in January.

Robinson-Thorpe could not be reached for comment for this story; click here to read more about her background.

Tags: , ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 27, 2014  7:47am

Paca, who worked on Harp’s election campaign, said the Harp administration invited him to interview for the job.

He said said he was drawn to the position by “the opportunity to serve my city in a meaningful way.”

Give me a break.I smell the old Spoils system.
In the politics of the United States, a spoils system (also known as a patronage system) is a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its supporters, friends and relatives as a reward for working toward victory.


posted by: Paul Wessel on June 27, 2014  7:59am

Given the importance of public employee health benefit and retirement costs for cities across the nation, and given the contentious history of relationships between the city and its fire and police departments, it would be great to hear what the next Director of Labor Relations will bring to the table (literally) towards grappling with these issues.  In terms of the expense side of the city (and Board of Ed?) budget, this appointment is probably the single most important one Mayor Harp will make over the course of her term in office.

posted by: heightster70 on June 27, 2014  8:15am

I got to agree with 3/5’s on this one. None of them seem to be the most qualified for the position. Cronyism at its best.

posted by: McMansion man on June 27, 2014  8:32am

Are the candidates for the position qualified and is this a new created position ?

posted by: Walt on June 27, 2014  8:36am

Wouldn’t it be nice if a least one of the candidates had real prior training and experience in labor relations,  or am I unreasonable?

posted by: FacChec on June 27, 2014  9:00am

Generally politicians are asked to recommend three names, preferable civilians, to be considered for political appointments.

However, as recent appointments clearly demonstrate, the politicians prefer to recommend themselves for jobs rather than their constituents.

The Harp administration continues to build her administration with local politicians she views can best help her gain re-election rather than the best available person available.

Some of the recent local political appointments include, Nemerson, Fontana, James, Bartlett, Castro, Hausladen, Reyes, and Erick Johnson.

While Harp leads the chorus for local hiring via the New Haven Works jobs pipeline for example, she does not appoint local young recent college graduates over the old guard politicians in her administration.

posted by: Herewego on June 27, 2014  9:03am

It would probably be best to hire a Labor Relations Director who actually has a law degree since they will be working with contract language and negotiating with other attorneys.  Without that law degree, the city may have to hire another attorney to assist.

posted by: Brutus2011 on June 27, 2014  9:15am

Given the position and the qualifications of the candidates, I must go with Graves.


Simple, he is experienced, has ties to the city, and is a licensed attorney.

Legal training is a plus no matter what the job description.

Mayor Harp, your choice is clear.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 27, 2014  9:50am

Totally, Completely, Unabashedly UnQualified Notes:

1. Is it too much to ask that we hire a real human resources manager? Someone who knows the law, can read the law and understand the law? Somebody who has practiced the law, negotiated contracts and been involved in deep human resources experience?

2. None of the three people under consideration would ever, never be hired by a private company to run its human resources department. None. They have zero experience.

3. As Ald. Mike Stratton proved during the budget process, there was zero strategy in the union contract negotiations. There was no stated goal and the city’s outside attorney, who was paid, tens of thousands of dollars to negotiate that contract, delivered a lopsided, weak contract that will cost taxpayers more than it should.

4. If any of these people are installed, it will require having a real labor attorney on retainer forever. And because none of them know anything about labor law and negotiations, taxpayers will be stuck with endless and high bills and that lawyer will accomplish the same unfocused, non-goal driven outcome.

5. The people who has held the labor relations jobs in the past have been directly responsible for costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in court settlements. They have succumbed to political pressure to hire people with histories of workers comp; not stood up to politically driven test and list manipulation in the police and fire departments. Do we have any hope that a crony will do better?

Mayor Harp should just stop the patronage. We pay extraordinary property taxes, fines and fees in this city. There is enough money in a half billion dollar budget to hire real expertise, deep experience. Instead she’s going to serve up a loke-warm, half-baked political hack? Really?

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on June 27, 2014  10:14am

It’s impossible to eliminate political nepotism but I am troubled by the failure to actually tap into the wealth of talent that exists in this city beyond the handful of people the mayor and the administration know personally.  Why not create an electronic talent data bank that allows people to self - submit and be matched by qualifications and interests? Even the appointment process for local boards and commissions seems to discourage citizen participation.

I agree with others that having a law degree should be a minimum qualification.  I was equally bewildered when paca was being considered for the transportation post. Have any appointments gone to people under 30?

posted by: Wooster Squared on June 27, 2014  10:19am

This reeks of patronage.

None of these candidates appear qualified.

Why not just keep contracting the work to an attorney who understands labor and employment law?

posted by: Walt on June 27, 2014  12:28pm


You make a good point re Graves’ law degree,  but work for affirmative action or diversity is a minor part of a labor relations or human relations department, primarily seeking positions for folks not qualified without giving them extras points   for their ethnicity or background

Sort of like expecting competency from a neighborhood activist.  You will likely be disappointed and get just a talker, not a doer,  as we have found on a national level.

Better to look for another manager with real experience in the field (A law degree could be helpful of course, but most successful folk I have known in this field do not have advanced degrees,  just a lot of practical experience)


posted by: Hmmm on June 27, 2014  1:59pm

It seems none of the candidates have the appropriate educational or professional backgrounds to do this job. This is blatant cronyism, pure and simple. Shame on you, Mayor Harp.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on June 27, 2014  2:41pm

This is a bad idea.  Not a single one of those candidates can begin to go toe-to-toe with the unions, which is what’s required.  She needs to find someone else, someone more qualified for the job.  At $98,000 a year, it will be tough.  At least Ms. Blue held a law degree and MBA and had significant work and negotiation experience.

Not one of the other people hold a candle to her and this will come back to bite the city in terms of lawsuits against.  This definitely needs to go out for re-vetting.

posted by: budman on June 27, 2014  2:55pm

For once can we get the best of the best instead of the worst of the worst?  I absolutely love this city and this Mayor is going to drive me out.
What is one notable accomplishment out of any of Mayor Harp’s cronies?  Migdalia Castro?  Jackie James?  Doug Hausladen? Matthew Nemerson?  etc. etc, etc…. 
NHI - why not pull copies of each of their resumes and see if they have the work experience that back of their appointments?  This is bull!

posted by: Elm City Lifer on June 27, 2014  9:32pm

The same Marcus Paca that was the story behibd this NHI article


The same Clifton Graves that was the story behind this NHI article


And this


Claudette Robinson-Thorpe
Why was she even interviewed?  Im waiting for the Mayor to say April Fools.

posted by: cupojoe on June 27, 2014  9:50pm

Luckily the alders won’t just rubber stamp this blatant cronyism.

oh wait…

posted by: Honest in New Haven on June 28, 2014  9:21am

I support Mayor Harp but she should be embarrassed!  None of these people would ever get consideration in a credible hiring process.  Mr. Graves is the most qualified on paper given his credentials, but he has no experience at all in labor relations, and as many others have already said, this is an area that continues to cost the city millions in lawsuit settlements.  Nothing personal against them, but hiring any of these folks for this crucial position would be a disaster.

posted by: HewNaven on June 29, 2014  8:57am

Paul Wessel already said it, but I’ll reiterate for those who don’t understand: given the situation with public sector unions vis a vis city budgets, this might be the most important decision Harp will make. And not one of the 3 has any experience negotiating labor contracts?! Is this a set-up? A cruel joke to be cracked on the next generation of residents? Is she that intent on doling out these positions that she would rather jeopardize our financial health to return a favor?

Please find someone who is qualified.

posted by: Syne on June 29, 2014  11:51am

Please, Mayor Harp, hire someone with a law degree and experience in labor relations. As a taxpayer, I want to know $98,000 plus benefits is going to someone who already has years of experience negotiating contracts and who has a firm grasp of state and federal labor laws.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on June 29, 2014  1:29pm

Scary pick if it ends up Alder Robinson-Thorpe or former Alder Paca! How are they qualified to negotiate at the table with all the unions? Won’t get into other negatives about picking them.
The mayor feels she owes Paca and as far as Claudette, one way to shut her up!
As far as Graves I will say at least he is an attorney which I think is crucial to hold a law degree in this position and he seems to be someone who can stay calm and possibly play fair. At least I would hope so.