By Alex Distefano
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Oliver responded by saying how hard it was to recruit people to a troubled noncommercial station. She'd interviewed "dozens of people" for the top slots, she said, but wound up hiring those she already knew. Oliver met Asher when the two had worked together at Bloomberg LP, the mayor's giant media company. "Yes, it's true that I worked with Todd Asher in the private sector," she said. She also acknowledged hiring an old college friend to head production and recruiting her finance director from the mayor's office.
Then there is Oliver's choice as director of external affairs, a 30-year old man named Chris Coffey, whose mother is a friend of the mayor's and whose entire résumé consists of various Bloomberg jobs—at his media company, in his campaigns, and at City Hall. "To my understanding," Williams said, "no one else was interviewed, and he did not have a college degree, barely reached the qualifications, but earns the top amount, $116,000. Can you explain that?"
Oliver tried. "He has very specific skills and experience that we thought were best suited for this position," she said. She added that Coffey is also helping win grants for the station, an area where, she said, the agency needed assistance. Actually, the agency already has a full-time worker handling its grants—including $1.5 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that the station boasts of on its website. This employee is African-American and holds a master's degree from Johns Hopkins, the mayor's alma mater and where he long served as chairman of the board.
"I'm concerned about a pattern here that's disturbing," Williams said at the hearing. He didn't spell out what he meant, but one word for it is patronage, a by-product of which is discrimination against those outside the inner circle.
Last week, the agency was pressed about the "dozens" of interviews Oliver claimed to have conducted in her jobs search. A spokeswoman took things down a notch: "Several applicants" had been interviewed, she said. How many was that? Here, all answers ceased. The station was forthright and clear on one matter, however: It will continue to film Mayor Mike, wherever he chooses to travel.