That's some kind of interview process you've got there


Gail Szoboszlay is not the only person who has a lot of explaining to do.

The folks who were above her in the food chain at the Escambia School District need to take some time for reflective self-examination about how they hire people, based upon the story in today's Pensacola News Journal.

When is thorough not actually thorough?

When it allows someone with a misdemeanor theft charge, multiple financial missteps and a questionably arranged resume to get a job that will give them sway over a $20 million budget.

When it allows someone to purchase kitchen equipment outside of the appropriate channels and without authorized purchase orders.

When there are seven people on the line to interview a job candidate and not one of them notices glaring inconsistencies in the candidate’s resume.

Szoboszlay was director of the district’s food service program for roughly seven months in which time she left a trail of questionable vendor purchases, leave forms and mileage reimbursement requests.

That, friends, is not the galling part.

What ought to have you up in arms and on the line to your school board representative is the part where the assistant superintendent of operations, Shawn Dennis, told a Pensacola News Journal reporter that “if the same woman was to walk into an interview tomorrow with the same experience, we’d be hard-pressed not to recommend her…. What we had was employee who decided not to follow directions.”

Say what?

The audit reveals a little more than just someone’s inability to follow directions. It reveals a dysfunctional hiring process that clearly does not screen applicants to an acceptably modern standard.

Auditor David Bryant’s recommendations that extensive credit checks be conducted and telephone job interviews be discouraged are sound and ought to be followed immediately.

Also might I suggest the “trust, but verify” method of confirming a person’s academic and financial bona fides. Some new-fangled tools such as Google and Lexis/Nexis are helpful such matters.

Especially when the chance to supervise a multimillion budget is in play.

In some ways, it isn’t the School District’s fault. Look at the other civic examples this community has produced to follow in recent years.

The Community Maritime Park Associates board disregarded the advice of its own consultant to hire instead of the recommended candidate with experience in large mix-used develop projects, a consortium led by a developer with financial woes and partners in letterhead only.

The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority nearly sold one of the largest undeveloped tracts of land on our downtown waterfront to a guy who couldn’t be bothered to show up in person to meet them, who took “what-if” drawings for the space done by a local architect and pitched them as his “vision”, who hadn’t done much else but buy up land in and around Houston and had a DUI or two on his record.

Not to mention the agreement ECUA pursued to tote recyclables to an as-yet-unpermitted and unbuilt facility in Baldwin County, Ala., with a company that quietly essentially untied itself from the local company that was to contract for the work.

This is not the kind of reputation this community needs. Not when there are legitimate good news stories to tell about how we are leveraging our community's strengths into chances to rebuild ourselves. 

We can be more than this. It is 2013, for heaven's sake. Surely we are more than this.