Today’s SCOTUS decision (or punt) on the University of Texas Affirmative Action program caused me to reflect on my days as County Administrator in Sonoma County, CA….It was in the 70’s and local agencies were being sued right and left for not having women deputies, and not having sufficient minorities employed in a ratio that reflected the local population. I spent a fair amount of time working on those issues and complying with consent decrees under federal court monitoring.
My overall impression with the system is that it did produce better numbers but the quality of work output suffered big time. We found ourselves hiring people lower down on the competitive examination list in order to meet quantity numbers and the taxpayer paid a heavy price.
I also made the worst personnel decision of my entire career. I was hiring a new employee for an Analyst position in my office and was provided a list of candidates that included a young Hispanic man that had recently graduated for the University of Chicago Graduate School of Economics. We had no minorities on staff and I jumped. Thought I had died and gone to heaven. How could I be so lucky. Didn’t ask tough questions, didn’t dig down the way I usually did in the interview. His degree checked out and I bit. He was the dumbest staff person I ever had and I spent the next 6 months working with personnel figuring out how I could get rid of him before his probationary period was up. I finally got one of my department heads to take him in exchange for some budget support I would not normally have provided. I guess we’re never to old to learn life’s hard lessons.
The guy’s degree was worthless because he didn’t earn it. He skated thru the whole thing because he was a minority.