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County manager responds to rumors of nepotism

Exempt positions

Civil Service exams, which are administered periodically by the New York State Department of Civil Service, serve as one of the main roadblocks to favoritism in county government hiring.

Such exams require department heads to hire from among the top scorers on the written tests - normally the top three for a given position. Only when the someone in the top three turns down the job do applicants further down the list come up for consideration.

However, as Palmer explained, some county positions are exempt from Civil Service requirements and were designed to allow the appointing authority to hire whoever they want.

Examples include Patti Doyle, Deborah Palmer's sister-in-law, who was recently hired as confidential secretary to District Attorney Kristy Sprague. Shona Doyle, also Deborah Palmer's sister-in-law, was appointed in her place as deputy election commissioner, also an exempt position.

"The difficult thing about those jobs is you can have your job one day and not the next," he said, noting that the people filling those positions often change when the head of the department changes.

"The exempt positions in public service are really employees 'at-will,'" Palmer added. "If we want you, we want you; if we don't, we don't."

Other positions, such as low-level laborers and trainees, have no minimum requirements, civil service exam, or job specifications. Department heads can hire whichever applicant they feel is best qualified, though trainees must become qualified for a higher position within a year.

Erica Fuller was hired in the personnel department while Palmer was still the director there. She later became engaged to and married Patti Doyle's son.

"When I hired her there, I hired her as a trainee," Palmer said. "In that time, she got her GED, took a civil service test for typist, and did it in a year's time."

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