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Close ties

Special Commentary by Chris Graham

Should a tangential relationship to a sitting city-council member disqualify a candidate for appointment to a high city post?

That issue is being bandied about behind the scenes in City Hall with the candidacy of one of the 12 applicants for the open city-attorney position.

Eric Laurenzo, by all accounts, seems to have a solid, if short, resume to offer Waynesboro. An attorney with Poindexter, Schorsch, Jones and Hill in Waynesboro, Laurenzo is a 2001 graduate of Baylor and a 2005 grad of the law school at Michigan State with a term as a clerk with the Miami County Prosecutor’s Office.

Laurenzo is also the son of Steve and Patricia Laurenzo, who I’m told are close friends of Vice Mayor Frank Lucente, who of course is helping lead the search for a new city attorney that currently has city council reviewing the applications of several interested parties.

I can’t independently verify the word that the Laurenzos are close friends of Lucente, though I can say that I saw Lucente and Steve Laurenzo together at Stone Soup Books and Cafe a couple of Fridays ago picking up to-go meals together, so maybe there is at least some truth to that story that I’ve been told.

The issue that I’ve heard raised regarding the talk of the close ties between Lucente and the Laurenzos involves appearances more than anything else – at least that’s what I’m surmising. The city-attorney position is what is known as a charter position, in that it is spelled out in the city charter and is filled directly by the city council. This would mean that in the case of Eric Laurenzo, he would be faced with reporting directly to a city council led by Lucente, a person who is said to be a close friend of his parents.

The potential for abuse could be quite ripe there, the critics are saying, and I can see their point on that. On the other hand, I don’t anticipate that the new city-council majority is going to hire a new city attorney who is going to be too far out of line with their thinking on the issues of the day whether it’s the son of a member of the inner circle or not. Maybe having someone like Eric Laurenzo in the job makes it a little easier to control things to that end, but I think we have to concede that they’re not going to be looking to hire anything akin to a muckraker type to serve in this position given their own proclivities.

That said, I can also concede myself that the appearance of something untoward being done, some sort of fast one being pulled to get a friend’s son a plum assignment, can be as powerful as if to render what is actually going on or not going on a moot point.

I hope for the sake of young Mr. Laurenzo that he gets a fair shake when it comes time for city council to decide on the next city attorney. I hope as well that the other 11 applicants get their own fair shakes.

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