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No paper trail in Harvard

Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

HARVARD – The city never advertised, gathered applications or conducted formal interviews for a Public Works Department opening filled last month by former Alderman Darrell Perkins.

Perkins, who submitted a letter of resignation from his seat as 4th Ward alderman in early February, was hired about two weeks ago to work in the department, Mayor Jay Nolan said. Nolan said Perkins’ union position comes with a pay rate of about $20 an hour, translating to a baseline salary of $41,600.

Nolan said the city “had feelers out” to people in the community, receiving about eight applications for the position and interviewing three people. After the Northwest Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for those applications, Nolan clarified that there were no applications or formal interviews during the process.

“People came out and talked to me about it, but they didn’t have a [commercial driver’s license] and they weren’t a mechanic, and I said we’re looking for someone with a little more experience,” Nolan said. “That’s how this whole thing went down.”

Perkins hasn’t commented publicly since his retirement and didn’t return calls Friday.

Nolan, who has ultimate hiring and firing authority within Harvard, said the city had been considering bringing on a Public Works employee for “quite awhile,” and that Perkins possessed skills needed for the job that he felt would be tough to find elsewhere.

“We had an opening,” he said. “I believe we had a well-talented, all-around man to fill that position.”

Perkins was plowing snow this week and welding for the city Friday. He will work on the city’s automotive fleet as needed.

Third Ward Alderman Mike Clarke said the mayor and City Administrator Dave Nelson – who is in the middle of two weeks away from the office for medical leave – made the council aware of the city’s intention to fill a Public Works position and to hire Perkins.

He said the council agreed Perkins was the best person for the position. Clarke estimated those conversations took place between four and six weeks ago.

Perkins submitted his letter for resignation Feb. 8. It was accepted at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

“When the mayor spoke with me about initially hiring Darrell, I expressed reservations about how this would appear to people unaware of the situation,” Clarke said. “But I was told Darrell fits a lot of the city’s needs ... and I was told by City Administrator Dave Nelson he could do a lot of things for the city that the other candidates could not do.”

Perkins’ resignation from the council and subsequent hiring come less than a month after the city fired longtime Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bob Burkart.

In February, the city hired Mike Clingingsmith to replace Burkart.

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