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Suffolk County Executive Bellone Issues Major Report Regarding the Department of Human Resources, Personnel and Civil Service

Report Cites Only One Person of Color Among 77 Employees Within Department – Lack of Diversity Within Department Contributes to Inadequate Outreach to Diverse Communities

Report Also Cites Absence of Human Resource Functions Preventing Department From Fulfilling its Mission Defined by the County Charter


County Executive Nominates Thomas Melito to Serve As Suffolk County Personnel Officer, Appoints Retha Fernandez as First-Ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer


Copy of Report Can Be Found Here


Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today released the findings of a comprehensive 10-month review of the Department of Human Resources, Personnel and Civil Service. The report offers an unprecedented examination of the Department following a thorough assessment led by Suffolk County Performance Management and in collaboration with members of the Department and various stakeholders, including County department heads and local jurisdictions served. 


The County Executive also nominated Thomas Melito to serve as Suffolk County Personnel Officer pending approval by the County Legislature. In addition, the County Executive announced that he is creating the first-ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and appointing Retha Fernandez to serve in that position, pending similar legislative approval. A search is also currently underway to select a candidate to serve as Director of Human Resources.


“This review makes it abundantly clear that the Department of Civil Service must be reformed to ensure that we create a culture of innovation and diversity to attract and retain talent in the workforce,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “We now have a roadmap that will enable the Department to make the necessary changes so that we can improve performance, empower employees, and bring this Department into the 21st century. Tom is uniquely qualified to serve as our next Personnel Officer based on his experience with employee training and existing working relationships with local government and school districts. Tom and Retha will make an exceptional team to lead this Department and make it a model of excellence across the state.”


Earlier this year, the County Executive announced that Barry Paul, Director of Performance Management for Suffolk County, would be temporarily reassigned to the Department of Civil Service to work with Jo-Anne Taormina, the Acting Suffolk County Civil Service Personnel Director, to lead the review of the Department and develop a series of recommendations on its operations. The objective was to incorporate new ideas and innovations, utilizing best practices to create a 21st century civil service office that is efficient, effective, and transparent.


Based on the review, the Department has failed to meet its full array of responsibilities called for by the Suffolk County Charter. These include providing a robust County Human Resources function, conducting day to day internal operations with respect to County-wide Civil Service functions, and the management of diversity in the Human Resources/Civil Service Department as well as the important role it should play in increasing diversity in local governments. 


Data used in the report were collected from three perspectives: (1) information and documents provided by Department staff that described the scope of current responsibilities and policies; (2) electronic survey of County department heads to solicit their views about Department effectiveness; and (3) interviews with major local jurisdictions conducted to solicit their views about Department operations.


Key Findings 


  • The Department has a very poor diversity profile with only one person of color among 77 employees.
  • Absence of a Division of Human Resources within the Department of Human Resources, Personnel and Civil Service Assessment, as well as a Director of Human Resources to lead the Division
  • The absence of a dedicated federated information technology unit, focused on the County payroll/personnel system and performing all functions necessary and pertinent to the administration of such system as well as all human resource information systems
  • The absence of a dedicated training unit to assist County departments in the planning, design and administration of training programs for County employees other than departmental orientation and in-service programs
  • The absence of HR titles which hinders the improvement and standardization of HR best practices Countywide




Create and Sustain a Diverse Workforce

Building a more diverse and inclusive work environment that is integrated into an organization’s goals can provide significant benefits: higher employee retention, higher levels of employee engagement, broader attraction of top talent, better community image, stronger financial performance and more innovation. The Department should prioritize its key role in diversity management and leadership to create and empower and organization culture that fosters a respectful and inclusive environment.


In this spirit, the Department should establish a Diversity and Inclusion Program with an initial focus within the Department and expanding to all County departments and local jurisdictions with the objective of having a County-wide public sector employee population that better represents the County’s constituent population at large. In addition, the Department should establish strategic diversity goals and metrics to monitor impacts of the program County-wide.


Fulfill Chartered Responsibilities for County Human Resources

The Department should adopt a new mission statement and produce a departmental strategic plan that is consistent with County Charter intent, best practices and County Administration policy. Further, it should hire an experienced and skilled Director of Human Resources and strengthen and develop a Human Resources function within the Department.


Overhaul Execution of County-wide Civil Service Functions

  • Improve performance by implementing a system that utilizes performance metrics, conducts periodic assessments, utilizes HR metrics consistently, and establishes a mechanism to assess a more frequent sampling of County and local jurisdiction needs
  • Ensure staff be routinely re-trained in the interpretation and implementation of NYS civil service laws and rules
  • Invest in technology by implementing a new technology solution for County payroll, time and attendance management and personnel
  • Evaluate the fairness of County policies in targeted areas
  • Continually review civil-service laws and regulations to identify those that inhibit effective organizational management and strive to improve deficiencies by working with controlling administrative authorities and via legislative reforms


Nominations and Appointments


In addition to the findings and recommendations aforementioned, the County Executive has nominated Thomas Melito to serve as Suffolk County Personnel Officer.  For the last eight years, Melito has served as a Deputy County Executive responsible for performance management where he helped promote greater efficiencies in county operations and served as an architect behind SuffolkStat. Most recently, he helped lead the successful launch of the first-ever 311 constituent response center among a suburban county in New York State, including all associated personnel classification, recruitment and training for such activities. Beginning in 2012, Melito helped develop procedures to make Suffolk County an open, accessible and constituent friendly operation with the implementation of the County’s first Traffic and Parking Violations Agency. Outside of county government, he has served the local community as a former member of the Babylon Board of Education for 14 years. Melito received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from SUNY New Paltz and Masters of Business Administration in Finance (MBA) from New York University.


The County Executive also appointed Retha Fernandez to serve as the first-ever Suffolk County Chief Diversity Officer.  In this new role, under the supervision of the Personnel Officer and the County Executive, Fernandez will lead the development and implementation of Suffolk County’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. She will be responsible for improving diversity and inclusion in County hiring and personnel practices, as well as identifying, evaluating and making recommendations to improve work teams across the County.


Fernandez currently serves as the Project Director of the State of Black Long Island (SOBLI) Equity Council, a project convened by the Urban League of Long Island where she is responsible for the project delivery of the Council's equity agenda and campaigns. Prior to joining the Urban League, she spent 15 years in the prestige beauty industry leading regional teams and overseeing technology strategy development and execution as an Information Technology Executive. While at Estee Lauder Companies, Inc., one of her key roles was serving as an Inclusion & Diversity Trainer for North America Employees. Fernandez holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management from St. Joseph’s College.



Categories: County Executive


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