Column: Trust Wayne County’s leadership
This week my wife Renata resigned from her position in the Wayne County Treasurer’s office. Not because she wasn’t a good employee helping people avoid foreclosure of their homes, but because she recognizes, as I do, that appearance, as much as truth, can affect people’s trust in government.
The facts are that former Treasurer Richard Hathaway hired Renata on a $60,000 contract in February 2016. Subsequently, and before we were married, she accepted a full-time position in October under current Treasurer Eric Sabree at a salary of $70,000. Recently, she earned an additional raise.
It’s also true that our corporation counsel hired the treasurer’s son, Adam Sabree, in November 2016, as an entry level attorney for $58,000. Adam is a bright young man, who, in 2010, interned in the same department. He is qualified for this job. While we offered this job to several candidates who declined for various reasons, corporation counsel was happy to welcome him.
I understand that these circumstances don’t look good. And I really don’t think Richard Hathaway or Eric Sabree, both honorable public servants, put a thumb on the scale because of my relationship with Renata. What I do know is that I did not, at any time, play any role in her hiring. Likewise, the decision to hire Adam was independently made.
In hindsight, I wonder, should I have dissuaded Renata from applying? Should I have intervened to tell an independently elected constitutional official whom not to hire within their approved budget? Maybe, but I didn’t. I thought it best to stay out of it. So, I did.
I trust that Hathaway and Sabree evaluated Renata’s credentials and experience. I trust they came to the same conclusions as I did . She’s a passionate, hard-working person who draws on life lessons and years of community work and service. The treasurer has defended her work. I, too, defend my wife and don’t appreciate her character being called into question.
I understand, though, that this does not change the appearance because of whom she married. Sometimes, a responsible public leader must remove even the appearance of impropriety, even if it does not actually exist, to maintain the public’s confidence in the government he leads.
Wayne County needs to continue to rebuild the public’s trust. I think we’re doing this as we restore fiscal responsibility and good government. Considering the recent past in Wayne County, appearances do matter. I hope people will fairly review these facts and understand our efforts to act honorably throughout this difficult situation.
Warren C. Evans is the executive of Wayne County.