Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina’s Division of Emergency Management has put two assistant directors on paid leave while the agency investigates reports of nepotism.
The WRAL Investigates team obtained records that show the sons and daughters of two high-ranking and four lower-level employees got unadvertised, high-paying jobs to work on disaster relief last year.
After the storms killed dozens of people, destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands homeless, the agency added temporary workers, called disaster reservists, many of whom are former state workers or people who have worked in disaster areas before.
However, last year’s reservist list included names of employees’ sons and daughters who had no experience in disaster relief.
Assistant director Steve Sloan’s son, Steven Sloan, scored a community relations job after both events, making $20.92 an hour. The state paid him a total of $43,391.53, which included overtime pay, hotel and meals.
Assistant director Emily Young’s daughter, Jessica Kilpatrick, worked on the governor’s hotline after the tornadoes and made $18.18 an hour, for a total of $2,225.08, which included overtime pay.
Both assistant directors were put on a 30-day leave on March 27, but were still receiving their nearly $70,000 salaries as of Thursday.
“I actually don't think I did anything wrong,” Steve Sloan said. “I didn't have oversight over anyone. I knew, of course, my son, but everybody else, I had no idea.”
The agency’s family friendliness didn’t end there. Records show lower-level employees’ children also benefited.
Community development specialist Carole Ingram’s son, Addison Ingram III, worked in community relations after Hurricane Irene and made $16.90 an hour, for a total of $19,226.67, which included overtime pay, hotel and meals. Her daughter, Addisondra Ingram, worked in community relations after the tornadoes and made $17.57 an hour, for a total of $4,193.26, which included overtime pay.
Donna Latimer was an individual assistance coordinator and recently left the agency. Her son, Brian Latimer, worked in community relations after both disasters and made $20.96 an hour, for a total of $30,552.73, which included overtime pay, hotel and meals.
Community development specialist Willie Mae Cox’s daughter, Quatrice Cox, worked on the governor’s hotline for both disasters and made $20.30 an hour, for a total of $30,629.56, which included overtime pay, hotel and meals.
Community development specialist Patty Moyer's daughter, Jennifer Moyer, worked on the governor's hotline following the tornadoes and made $17.26 an hour, for a total of $4,000.66, which included overtime pay.
“When we became aware of who was on this list and that family members were being hired, we had concerns, too,” said Ernie Seneca, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.
Seneca released a statement Thursday, saying "the work status of Carole Ingram, Patty Moyer and Willie Mae Cox remains unchanged." He added that "an internal investigation was initiated and appropriate disciplinary action has been implemented. The investigation continues and additional action will be taken as appropriate.” He did not explain what disciplinary action was taken.
Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell issued a memo on March 19, changing the agency’s hiring practices, especially for temporary employees. He also included a copy of the state’s policy on nepotism. Among the changes, Hoell wrote, Temporary Solutions, a separate state agency, will now handle the advertising, recruitment, screening and recommendation of candidates for the agency’s temporary employment needs.
“Once this came to light, the department took immediate steps,” Seneca said, adding that the next time a disaster hits, the most qualified people will get the jobs, not the most connected. “Family members should not be supervising family members.”
The WRAL Investigates team showed the employment records to lieutenant governor candidate Linda Coleman, who was director of the Office of State Personnel last year.
“That is absolutely wrong to do. It sends to the public a message that, in state government, there are no rules,” she said. “When positions are paid for with public dollars, everyone should have equal opportunity to apply.”
At a time when people are struggling to find work, the family ties in the disaster reservist program didn't sit well with some job seekers.
“Seems like a classic case of nepotism. I don't know what else they may call it in the workplace. I don't think it's fair,” said John Kopensky, who was looking for a job at the state Division of Employment Security office in Raleigh. “The privileged will get the first choice at those opportunities – friends of friends of friends.”
The WRAL Investigates team found that friends of some of the employees’ children got temporary jobs as disaster reservists as well. However, that is not covered by the state's nepotism policy.
Job-seeker Shaina Brown said, had she known about the jobs, she would have been interested in applying.
“Absolutely,” she said. “(This was) special treatment. I mean, it’s unfair to the public, especially if it’s state jobs.”