Civil Service votes against Bukovac for IT job

By Jason Hawk -



In a rare denial, the Amherst Civil Service commission has voted down former councilman Steve Bukovac’s bid to become the city’s information technology manager.

The decision, made last Wednesday, left mayor Mark Costilow upset.

He had sought the three-person commission’s approval to make an “exceptional appointment” of Bukovac to the newly-created IT job and felt rebuffed.

“Even though I disagree with their decision, I respect it and I respect the people on it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to continue trying to do what’s best for the city,” he told the News-Times.

“We should have had an IT person a long time ago. I could have used one three times today, literally.”

Gina Grasso, who chairs the commission, said she is impressed by Bukovac’s resume, which details his more than 30 years in the technology industry.

Yet she said the commission was not provided with a job description for the new IT manager position until immediately prior to the meeting.

“We had nothing to compare the resume to, basically,” she said. “For myself, I think a lot of it was not being able to put the time in and make sure everything was good.”

Grasso said the decision, which came after a behind-closed-doors discussion with commission members Ed Cowger and Darrell McCarty, was not a statement against Bukovac or Costilow.

“It was obviously nothing personal,” she said.

With time and more research into the requirements of the job and how they relate to Bukovac’s credentials, she said the vote might have a different result.

“Everybody’s trying to figure it out because it’s brand new,” Grasso said.

Costilow said he understands the board might have felt pressured, but said he was willing to give it all the time and answers needed.

Both the mayor and law director Tony Pecora said they are concerned with why the Civil Service commission raised certain questions, however.

For example, Costilow said (and Grasso verified) the commission wanted to know how the city could afford an IT manager, how many positions could be added to the fledgling department with time, and whether there is truly enough work for any candidate hired to a full-time city IT job.

The commission exists to determine whether a candidate is qualified, not to debate council’s policy decisions, Pecora said.

“I think that the mayor would have felt much about the whole process had the commission discussed and appeared concerned about the qualifications of Steve Bukovac, rather than issues that in my mind were fleshed out by council in deliberations that created the position,” he said.

Pecora was not present for the meeting. However, he said if the Civil Service commission based its decision on the answers to questions not under its purview — which would be difficult to prove — the decision could be deemed void.

Costilow was upset after the meeting. In a phone call, he said he felt the commission “had a hidden agenda.”

He also said the commission walked out immediately after casing its no-vote for Bukovac, which Grasso said is not accurate. “Actually, he walked away before our meeting was adjourned,” she said.

Now the mayor’s office is advertising for IT manager applications from the public at large.

The posting includes a job description calling for a candidate who “coordinates the activities and operations of the information technology department to include hardware, software, network, telephone, and computer systems administration; identifies, recommends, develops, implements, and supports cost-effective technology solutions for all aspects of the city; prepares bid specifications and analyzes bid proposals for computer, network equipment, software and audio-visual equipment; (and) coordinates assigned activities with other city departments and outside agencies.”

The starting salary would be $55,250.

A candidate — which could still include Bukovac — can be hired by the mayor’s offices without approval by the Civil Service commission. However, the hiree would not be afforded the same protections.

Costilow said he feels an employee should only be able to be fired for just cause, not for political reasons.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.


By Jason Hawk