Correction: The Advocate on April 22 quoted Neftalie Danier, assistant director of alumni relations for Bernard M. Baruch College, as saying Troy Bell — at the time the newly named chief administrative officer for East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome — did not have a master of public administration degree from that school. Danier said Bell owed money and hadn't completed the necessary coursework. Asked for comment at the time, Bell said that while he had not requested the diploma, he had completed the coursework required for the degree. Bell recently provided The Advocate with a diploma dated 2012 showing he was granted the degree by Baruch. When asked Nov. 29 about the issue, Suzanne Bronski, director of public relations of Baruch College, said Bell did receive the degree, but refused to answer more questions. Bronski said that under federal law, "we are only permitted to release the degree held and the date of the degree awarded."
After her first choice of chief administrative officer was forced to resign after five days on the job, members of the Metro Council called for Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome to open up the hiring process.
But Broome this week said that she would find a replacement herself.
CAO Troy Bell resigned a week ago after The Advocate published a story stating he lied about his credentials. Councilman Buddy Amoroso suggested looking at whether the Metro Council could hold a confirmation vote on the next chief administrative officer pick. Councilman LaMont Cole advocated for assembling a committee of council members and city staff to review candidates.
Broome responded to an interview request about her next steps to find a new CAO with a prepared statement. In it, she said she will screen, interview and hire a candidate on her own.
The mayor has broad authority to appoint a CAO, who is the key leader responsible for executing the mayor's vision for city-parish government. Many government jobs are classified, meaning applicants must meet certain requirements but also enjoy civil service protections, but the CAO is an unclassified position, so employees can be hired and fired as the mayor pleases.
Broome said council members are welcome to suggest candidates they think are worth consideration, noting that she will look for the strongest applicant, whether they're local or from outside Baton Rouge.
"I will choose the most capable person possible who will do a great job for the city, and be someone we all can trust and be proud of," she wrote.
Correction:The Advocate on April 22 quoted Neftalie Danier, assistant director of alumni rel…
"As mayor-president and the leader of this city/parish, I will never settle for mediocrity but will dare to do great things. As I’ve shared on many occasions, I am not perfect, but I will always give my best effort and serve the people of this community with integrity."
Broome wrote that she will not advertise again for CAO applicants, though she will continue to accept new applications. She intends to interview the top three to five candidates, who will be subject to a background check. One of those candidates will receive an offer contingent on completion of a drug screen and a physical exam.
In response to an Advocate records request, the city-parish released its human resources hiring policies. They were updated in 2015 when Council instituted a new policy — occasionally known as "ban the box" — which halted the practice of asking job candidates about their criminal history in their initial application.
The HR documents provide for drug tests and background checks, though the latter is optional for unclassified positions such as CAO. Documents also do not define how a background check is to be performed, other than to say it is outsourced to a company which provides a number of services to vet applicants' histories. Job applicants have to sign a statement swearing their applications are honest, because "an investigative report may be made from information obtained through personal interviews with others."
Prospective employees must also undergo a medical exam, which includes questions about their chronic health issues and whether they have any "permanent defect" and asks for medical examinations of various parts of the body. Mayor's spokeswoman Janene Tate said the medical exam is used to determine whether candidates have any pre-existing medical conditions to comply with Louisiana workers' compensation laws.
The East Baton Rouge Metro Council laid down a challenge for Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
Bell stepped down last week after five days when the paper published a story revealing he lied about his educational attainment and work history at two Florida agencies. In an interview with The Advocate, Bell said he resigned from the Florida positions, but documents showed he was terminated.
Since then, another former employer has also called into question the claims on his resume. Bell said he worked as a special assistant to the city manager in Beverly Hills, California, which he described on his resume as a "chief of staff styled role." Jeff Kolin, the city manager at the time, wrote in an email this week "it appears that (Bell) has enhanced the description of his role ... he had no supervisory responsibilities."
Bell maintained Friday that he does not consider his application material misleading, adding that he "didn't necessarily say that chief of staff is a supervisory role."
He also forwarded a letter which states that he completed a program at Baruch College, where staff has said he does not hold the master's of public administration degree he has claimed. However, the letter is from a fellowship program — not the school — it is addressed to the city hall in Central, and both Broome and Bell's names are misspelled.