As a candidate, Matt Bevin often decried cronyism, the practice of hiring marginally qualified friends and political supporters into government jobs.
However, with the announcement last week that he had created a $250,000-a-year-job for longtime friend and political supporter Vivek Sarin, it seems that Bevin, like so many before him, has begun to redefine cronyism as what happens when the other guy is doing the hiring.
This comes on the heels of Bevin’s announcement that he’d hired Daniel Dumas as his adoption and foster care “czar” under a $240,000-a-year contract. Dumas, a vice president at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville — which has close ties to the Bevin family — has no professional experience in the field, although he has adoptive children.
As with Dumas, apparently no one else was interviewed or even considered for Sarin’s job. The duties are vaguely defined as “help develop workforce strategies,” and “lead numerous strategic initiatives related to improving the state’s business climate.”
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And, it seems redundant.
Secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development Terry Gill, who makes the same salary as his newly appointed “executive officer,” oversees dozens of professionals dedicated to improving the business climate.
Plus, Hal Heiner, the secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, according to the cabinet’s website, “oversees the work of educating, preparing and training Kentucky’s current and future workforce.”
Finally, like Dumas, Sarin doesn’t seem to have any directly related professional experience in state-level economic development, or workforce development.
Most of his career has been spent at Shelby Industries, his family business that made towing and trailering equipment until it shut down last October. The news release announcing Sarin’s government job said Shelby Industries employed over 100 people at its peak but a news report from the closing put employment at 30.
In 2011 when, under former Gov. Steve Beshear, Shelby Industries was approved to receive $100,000 in tax incentives, there were 48 workers with plans to add 10 more.
Shelby Industries has been cited by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection for failing to manage hazardous materials that wound up in a nearby stream. Officials said the contractor initially hired to clean up the materials was apparently responsible for the spill but also that Shelby Industries had left the material on site too long after the plant closed.
Sarin is also identified as founder and president of Juvo Company, which is described as a professional services firm, although the extent of that business is not clear in the news release or on Juvo’s website.
We can admire Sarin’s entrepreneurship and accept that his manufacturing company failed not because of any shortcoming on his part but because it just couldn’t match the prices of overseas competitors.
But the aspect of his history that seems to have made him the sole candidate for a newly created job is his long friendship with and political support of Bevin, including a total of $4,600 in donations to various campaigns.
And that is cronyism, pure and simple.