Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 15, 2013

Wives of school board members Destino, Restaino hired to work at Falls school district

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls City School District recently decided to fill two open secretarial jobs with wives of sitting board members.

Julia Destino, wife of former mayoral and state senate candidate Johnny Destino, and Diana Restaino, wife of former state assembly candidate Robert Restaino, were hired in provisional roles to fill vacancies in the district’s central office.

It’s a questionable move considering the district’s past of seemingly hiring friends and family members of important officials.

“Everyone knows someone here in Niagara Falls,” School Board President Russell Petrozzi said. “It’s always an issue when it’s a relative of a board member. But I don’t think we should punish anyone just because they’re a relative. Both still have to pass the civil service exam and have to score in the top three.”

To take the positions, both will need to score in the top three of the next civil service exam to retain the position. Both will receive $33,920 salaries, with Destino’s position not starting until Aug. 1. Restaino’s position started July 1.

Destino’s case is especially noticeable, considering her husband was vocal in trying to stop alleged nepotism in hiring human resources director Maria Massaro, daughter of the district’s attorney, Angelo Massaro.

At the time, Destino said, he simply believed the district needed to display more transparency in its hiring practices. He said the board had it within its power to change the job description for Massaro’s position so she would be better suited for the position’s requirements.

Concerning his wife, though, he said the job she interviewed for and was ultimately hired to do, pending her civil service exam results, had less requirements which she more than qualifies for.

“The secretary position requires a high school diploma and two years of secretarial experience,” he said. “My wife has a college degree and has spent 10 years as an administrative assistant and a paralegal.”

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