Unqualified Veteran Resigns as City Manager – Why Was He Hired?
In a recent post, we discussed how an Oregon employer had allegedly wrongfully discharged a former military service member, denying him his federally mandated employment protection. At the other extreme is the League of Oregon Cities, which hired a former service member to be the city manager for the city of Banks, Oregon – despite his alleged lack of qualifications – because it improperly followed Oregon laws meant to promote the hiring of veterans and failed to conduct a proper background check.
Former Veteran Falsified His Credentials
In November of 2012, the Oregonian reported that Banks City Manager Kyle Awesome had resigned after less than two months on the job. His abrupt resignation led to questions about his credentials and whether he had lied in his resume. Awesome claimed that he had earned a master’s degree in international relations from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 2006 and a doctorate in presidential politics from Georgetown University in 2010; neither of these degrees could be verified by the respective university registrars.
Awesome – who legally changed his name from Franklin Kyle Hayes in 2010 after realizing how amazing it was to have survived his six year Army service in both Iraq and Afghanistan – also claimed to have worked as the chief of operations (the military equivalent to city manager) at Fort Myer Army base in Arlington, Virginia from 2008 until 2012. Another service member from the army base contradicted Awesome’s claim, saying he was only the staff sergeant in charge of planning for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (approximately 1800 soldiers).
Veteran’s Preference Laws and Insufficient Background Checks Responsible
A follow-up report in the Oregonian earlier this month noted that, it was surprising that Awesome got the job of city manager because, in addition to his fabricated credentials and experience, he also was one of the lowest scoring candidates for the position. The reason that Awesome made his way into the job in the first place seems to be as a result of a 1977 Oregon law called veteran’s preference that says that applicants for public employment get an extra five points, in addition to the points they receive for their qualifications, if they can prove veteran status. If they can prove disabled veteran status, they are given ten extra points. Even with the extra points, Awesome scored only 35th out of the 37 scored applicants.
However, the decisive factor for Awesome was a 2011 amendment to the veteran’s preference law that requires public employers to interview former service members who can show that their military training meets the minimum qualifications and attributes for the job. Having allegedly fabricated his resume to reflect that his military experience as a chief of operations made him qualified for the position of city manager, Awesome was granted an interview. A compelling interviewee, and the only applicant with veteran’s preference to make it to the final round of consideration, Awesome ended up being the second choice for Banks city manager (he got the job after the person who was initially offered the position declined it).
Of course, had the League of Oregon Cities – the group hired by the city of Banks to vet and hire a new city manager – conducted a thorough background check, Awesome would likely never have been hired. While veteran’s preference laws are vital to ensuring that the men and women who served their country are able to maintain livelihoods when they return home, the city of Banks has shown how important it is to be aware of when unqualified people try to gain an unfair advantage.
If you are a veteran who, unlike Awesome, has been put at an employment disadvantage by your military service, please contact one of our attorneys to discuss your legal options.