By Ed Runyan
Dan Sferra Jr., 31, first hired to work for the city of Warren 10 years ago cutting grass, was promoted in May to Planning and Building Department Planning Coordinator, which pays $27.46 an hour.
Sferra’s promotion has raised questions about why he got the job when he has none of the college education or training sought in the job description.
Safety-Service Director Doug Franklin, who approved Sferra’s appointment, says Sferra got the job in part to resolve a grievance Sferra filed when an April 2011 ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court bumped Sferra back from a job paying $25.37 an hour to one paying $17.97 per hour.
Sferra, son of the former mayor and current councilman of the same name, began his new job May 17.
The job makes Sferra responsible for planning and zoning matters, such as enforcing zoning ordinances and serving as secretary of the city’s planning commission.
The job description says the planning coordinator should have a “thorough knowledge of principles and practices pertaining to zoning and planning.”
The planning coordinator should have “considerable planning experience and preferably possession of a degree in planning or a closely related field,” the job description says.
Sferra’s boss, City engineer Paul Makosky, said Sferra has none of those qualifications.
“I think he would be the first to admit he has a lot to learn,” Makosky said. “But it appears he’s willing to work hard and learn the responsibilities of the position.”
Warren Councilwoman Helen Rucker raised questions about the hiring at a Wednesday city council committee meeting, asking why an “unqualified” person was hired.
Brian Massucci, the city’s human-resources director, said the job, which was vacant since the last planning coordinator, Dan Notar, retired at the end of 2008, was posted to the approximately 21 members of the city’s management union, Local 2501 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Under the terms of the bargaining agreements in place, there was no advertisement of the job to the public or to any other city employees, Massucci said.
“We had a need to fill that position,” Franklin said, adding that during the six weeks Sferra has been on the job, he has been “aggressively enforcing zoning ordinances.”
Notar, like Sferra, came from a laborer’s position before getting the planning- coordinator job and had no training in the field, Franklin said.
“And he ended up doing a great job for us,” Franklin said.
Massucci said the current city engineer, Paul Makosky, and the previous one, Bill Totten, have asked numerous times for the city to fill the planning-coordinator position.
As for the grievance, Franklin said it was prompted by an April 2011 Ohio Supreme Court decision that awarded the operations manager job to Frank Tempesta after Tempesta was laid off for financial reasons in 2009 from a similar job that paid $39.60 per hour.
As a result of Tempesta’s returning as operations manager, the city moved Sferra back to Equipment Operator II in the Water Department, but AFSCME Local 74, which has jurisdiction over the equipment- operator position, said assigning Sferra back to that job violated the contract.
Franklin said he was concerned about how that grievance would have been resolved and felt the settlement agreement the city signed with Sferra, giving him the planning coordinator job, was the best option.
Franklin said he found the union’s role in the hiring of Sferra for the planning coordinator job “a little frustrating.”
“This whole process was guided by the language in the contracts,” Franklin said, adding that Sferra’s father had no bearing on the decision.
“I can’t help who his dad is,” Franklin said.
Dan Sferra Jr.’s work history for the city of Warren from 2001 to now:
Worked July 31, 2001, through Sept. 28, 2001, cutting grass for the health department.
Hired as laborer in the operations department Nov. 29, 2001, making $8.67 per hour.
Became meter reader, water department, April 23, 2002, making $10.20 per hour.
Became laborer, water
department, Sept. 18, 2002, making $9.66 per hour.
Became meter-reader leader March 31, 2004, making $14.54 per hour.
Became customer-service representative, water department, April 28, 2004, making $15.02 per hour.
Became Plant Operator II in the water-filtration plant Oct. 6, 2004, making $15.16 per hour.
Became laborer in the water department June 30, 2006, making $17.73 per hour.
Placed on five days’ unpaid leave and docked 40 hours of vacation pay June 30, 2006, after he was convicted of a misdemeanor attempted cocaine-possession charge.
Transferred to Equipment Operator II in the water department Oct. 17, 2008, making $17.97 per hour.
supervisor Dec. 13, 2010, making $25.37 per hour.
Became equipment operator II in the water department April 11, 2011, at $17.97 per hour.
Became planning coordinator May 16, 2011, at $27.46 per hour.
Source: Dan Sferra Jr. personnel file