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.”
“Julia Destino is super qualified,” Superintendent Cynthia Bianco added. “We think she’ll be perfect in the job we have for her, which is in the central office assisting with registration, given her background. Now, she still has to pass the test and score high enough to be retained. But having her working here is not going to hurt.”
Like Destino, the case for hiring Diana Restaino stems from her qualifications, Bianco said. Considered a popular substitute secretary in the district for the past decade, her employment at central office is expected to be a popular one, she said.
Bianco explained the hiring committee, which consists of three individuals from various positions in the district, including Massaro as human resources director and a union representative of the organization the open position falls under, doesn’t look at spouses or other relatives of board members when reviewing applications. The committee simply examines every applicant, she said, determining those worthy of an interview.
Those recommendations are then given to Bianco who makes a final decision based on the information given to her. She said both hirings make sense based on what she was given.
“I don’t determine who to hire by myself,” she said. “All personnel selections are handled by the committee and provided to me.”
Board member Robert Restaino declined comment on the matter.With mug of Destino - NIA Destino mug 071513 Johnny Destino NO explainer Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.