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Fox: no plans to address Iannazzi situation through JCLS

July 22, 2011

House Speaker Gordon Fox says he supports reforming the legislative hiring process, although he says changes shouldn’t be made in response to specific cases, including the controversy involving Senate aide Stephen Iannazzi. 

The House and Senate tend to not get into each other’s business. But the House has a three-to-two person majority on the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS), the General Assembly’s administrative arm. So I asked Fox during today’s taping of WPRI/WNAC-TV’s Newsmakers whether he plans to address the Iannazzi situation through the JCLS. In a word, his answer could be summed up as “No.”

In a subsequent interview, Fox said that both he and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed support using the JCLS to look at legislative hiring “probably next session.”

Reformers like Common Cause of RI have called for the legislature to adopt an employee-classification plan, so that State House workers have prescribed job responsibilities and specified compensation.

Fox says he has concerns about an employee-classification system protecting employees who aren’t performing or damaging “the ability to attract good people to it. But at the same token I think that we need to reform the way the legislative body does hiring, how it retains employees, how it compensates its employees.”

But Fox says controversies involving Iannazzi and some of his own legislative moves shouldn’t be the motivation for changing the legislative hiring system.

I don’t want to get into the position of villifying any individual. I know that Mr. Iannazzi has become part of this outcry. But you know in fairness to Mr. Iannazzi,  there was outcry over some pay raises I had given out as well. But those were within the context of what the job position is, and he did take a new job position, and folks do have a right to hire who they want to work with. And the Senate majority leader wanted to work with this young man.

I mean, just like I made choices that when I changed peoples’ duties, consolidated certain jobs, I did give raises to people, and people questioned why would I be giving raises when we’re in difficult times. But I think that good people doing good jobs, and doing more work, should have their salaries adjusted to reflect that.

So I think it’s in the whole context. I don’t want to focus on individuals.

ProJo editorial columnist Edward Achorn has seized upon Iannazzi, who receives almost $90,000 a year as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, as a poster child for State House cronyism.

Iannazzi is the son of Donald Iannazzi, the head of Laborers, Local 1033, which employs Ruggerio’s son, Charles, a lawyer. (Ruggerio has offered this defense of Iannazzi and his work at the State House.)

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