NOW YOU KNOW
5:51 PM EDT, October 18, 2012
When Connecticut Innovations Inc., a quasi-public state agency, sought an executive assistant to its executive director and CEO in the spring, 199 hopefuls applied. The winner: Leslie Larson, wife of seven-term U.S. Rep. John Larson. The documents Mrs. Larson submitted with her application stretch our faith in fairness.
Applicants who made the first cut needed three references. A reference form with 16 questions suggests that CI wants information from people who employed, supervised or worked with the applicant. Larson crony Elliot Ginsberg, the congressman's former chief of staff and now the leader of Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, a make-work organization that depends on government largesse, completed only one question. He's never worked "directly" with her but attests twice in his paragraph to her "great discretion."
Ginsberg wrote of Leslie Larson, "I have observed her maintain a balance and juggle a number of balls over the years and have no doubt she would be able to balance what she needs to do for herself and CI." Ginsberg didn't say whether she has the qualifications sought in the job posting and left 15 other questions blank. He certainly was not going to answer this standard inquiry: What would you consider to be his/her areas of improvement?
Patricia Russo provided a reference, though she states that Leslie Larson "[n]ever worked professionally for me." Russo, president of the Women's Campaign School at Yale University, provides this helpful information in a stream of consciousness response. "I have known her for over 20 years, met her throughout (sic) her husband, she is like a sister to me" Russo continues, "Personality is just as important as the skills … "
Russo notes that Leslie Larson "loves Claire and Claire needs her desperately." That's Claire Leonardi, the head of CI. She and her husband, state insurance commissioner Thomas Leonardi, are longtime John Larson pals and generous campaign contributors. The other 198 hopefuls, whatever their credentials, were played for chumps. That $70,000 a year job was for Leslie Larson.
Few could write, as Leslie Larson did, "I have had the privilege to travel abroad representing the United States." That's not a qualification sought in the job posting, but it is a reminder of the applicant's vicarious station. One co-worker provided a recommendation. It strikes a different tone. Joyce Boyd, who worked with Leslie Larson at AeroMed's warehouse, described her job as "Reviews shipments and matches it with what is supposed to go in, a lot of tracking of packages to make sure they have gotten there, tracks on the computers, deals with Quest, and like to know days it will get there." Larson, according to her application, worked at AeroMed between 15 and 30 hours a week for nearly eight years.
Of the 199 applicants, there were four finalists. Only Leslie Larson, however, was invited to submit a seven-page application, according to Suzanne Kaswan, manager of human resources at CI. That operation provides millions in loans to companies, so the people who run it must, of course, be very smart. What an innovation in human resources, that only the person who gets the job fills out an application. The other three finalists were state employees. Each was asked to submit a resume and cover letter. They were not, however, invited to provide the information elicited by a job application that most view as a standard element in hiring decisions.
Leslie Larson replying through Kaswan to questions submitted by email, acknowledged knowing "Claire from government and social circles for years." Leonardi interviewed her for the job after Leslie Larson initially contacted her about it. John Larson writes, "While I did not speak to anyone at CT Innovations about Leslie regarding this position, as any husband would, I frequently praised her talents to colleagues and friends."
John Larson's campaign website says he wants "an economy that gives all Americans a chance." Not, however, the same chance. He says we "need to think creatively about how jobs are created." For now, it seems, the old-fashioned way of favors and friends will serve just fine.
At CI it looks like it's better to "love Claire" and be connected than it is to possess the most qualifications.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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