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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 12:30 am

All in the family

Mayor’s relatives join city payroll

At least four relatives of Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder have gotten city jobs since the mayor took office in 2015.

A nephew who worked a $10-per-hour temporary job at the public works department in the summer of 2017 is no longer on the city payroll, nor is Travis Hamlin, a former budget analyst with the city’s Office of Budget and Management who is the mayor’s nephew-in-law. Langfelder said Hamlin hadn’t yet married his niece when he became a city employee in 2015. Hamlin earned $40,600 a year and was hired three months after Langfelder became mayor. He resigned in August. Langfelder says he took a higher-paying job in the private sector.

But three Langfelder kinfolk hired since 2015 are collecting checks from taxpayers. In addition, Larry Rockford, who is Langfelder’s brother-in-law and has been a City Water, Light and Power employee since 1990, has been promoted since Langfelder took office in 2015. His pay has gone from $84,460 in 2014, the year before Langfelder was elected mayor, to $101,000 in 2017.

The relative who most recently got a city job is Alexandria Rockford, a Langfelder niece, who was hired in October as an assistant to police chief Kenny Winslow. She is paid $46,000 per year.

Bryce Yoho, a groundskeeper for City Water, Light and Power, was hired last May at an annual salary of $31,200. From August 2013 until August 2017, he was a special education attendant for Springfield School District 186, where he worked 187 days a year and was paid $16,300 per year.

The highest-paid Langfelder relative is Julia Frevert, the mayor’s sister, whom Langfelder appointed the city’s communications director in 2015, shortly after he was sworn in. She earned nearly $93,000 in 2017, the most recent year for which municipal salaries are posted on the city’s website.

In a Dec. 18 report to the city council, Roger Holmes, the city’s inspector general, reported receiving a complaint from a CWLP employee about Frevert’s hiring. The same person said he was concerned that he would be forced to hire a husband of one of the mayor’s nieces, an apparent reference to Hamlin. Without naming names, Holmes told the council that Hamlin was on a list of candidates for a position but didn’t get it and subsequently left city employ.

City code does not allow an employee to work under another employee who is a close relative, but Holmes gave Langfelder a clean bill of health with regard to his sister.

The mayor, after appointing his sister to the post of communications director, ordered that she report to his executive assistant so that she would not report directly to her brother, Holmes told the council. The city council, Holmes wrote in his written report, “reviewed” the matter in 2015, when the appointment was made “in a fully transparent manner.”

“That issue has been looked at and beaten to death,” Holmes told the council.
Langfelder defended his sister’s hiring, which was reported in the media when he appointed her. He praised Frevert’s work and pointed out the arrangement under which she reports to his executive assistant instead of directly to him.

In the real world, though, wouldn’t people question whether Frevert, even if she reports to Langfelder’s executive assistant, in fact takes direction from her brother, the city’s top official?

“It’s a good question,” Langfelder allowed. “Really, the proof’s in the pudding. … She’s proved her worth. She’s really everybody’s communication director, quite honestly.”

Holmes in his December report to the city council did not address the hiring of Alexandria Rockford, the mayor’s niece, as assistant to the police chief. But he did say that he’s talked with the city’s human resources director about hiring practices.

“I’ve spoken at length with the city’s HR director, who says that at no point has he ever been asked by the mayor or anyone in administration to hire a particular person or to influence any hiring specifically,” Holmes told the council.

While Langfelder appointed Frevert, the mayor said that relatives who’ve gotten city jobs got no breaks. “They go through the same hiring process as everybody else,” the mayor says.

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin said he recalls the mayor discussing Frevert’s hiring with the council when the appointment was made in 2015. He said Frevert has done a good job. “I don’t have a problem with the setup myself,” McMenamin said. But the alderman said he wasn’t aware that  other Langfelder relatives have been hired since the mayor was sworn in.

“That’s a list that can raise some eyebrows,” McMenamin said.

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