Two finalists for staff director of the Boston City Council have lengthy resumes that include master’s degrees in public administration and years of experience managing multimillion dollar budgets, large federal grant programs, and municipal offices.
Bernadette Moran Lally, the third finalist, listed one main employer: Council President Stephen J. Murphy.
The previous staff director for the City Council had a law degree and a master’s degree. Lally has a high school diploma, has worked as Murphy’s chief of staff since 1998, and served as interim staff director for four months in 2011, according to her resume.
Lally is also the sister of state Representative Michael J. Moran, a Brighton Democrat in a leadership post at the State House who worked for Murphy.
“I believe I’m very qualified to hold this position,” Lally said Tuesday, citing her 15 years of experience with the council. “I applied. I went through the process. I didn’t ask anyone to participate in any way other than telling Steve that I was going to apply for it.”
In a separate interview, Murphy rejected the suggestion that Lally’s connections to him and to a powerful state lawmaker gave her an advantage. Murphy said he has recused himself from the hiring committee, although he said he would participate when the matter went to the full council for a vote, which could happen as soon as Wednesday afternoon.
“I didn’t want her applying for it; I liked her here [as my chief of staff],” Murphy said. “I’ve stayed miles away from the process. I didn’t know it was coming up this quickly.”
Added Representative Moran: “I’ve had absolutely nothing to do with this.”
The issue has highlighted a behind-the-scenes power struggle over the City Council’s 12-member central staff, which assists all 13 councilors with research, budget issues, and other duties. In his two years as council president, Murphy has pushed to increase his authority over the staff, a move resisted by some of his colleagues.
The hiring committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning to discuss finalists for the staff director position, which pays between $68,000 and $90,100. More than 50 people applied for the job. Central staff winnowed the number of applicants, and the committee conducted interviews.
The coming vote has split the City Council, with one camp pushing for another candidate, Daisy De La Rosa, who has a master’s degree in public administration and is a project director at the Boston Public Health Commission. The third finalist is Robert F. Canevazzi, who was a public works manager and town administrator on Cape Cod and has a master’s degree in public administration.
“I’m going to vote for the highest-qualified candidate, and that appears to be Mrs. De La Rosa,” Councilor Matt O’Malley said. “She has strong credentials and has relevant experience working in the public sector overseeing budgets and managing people.”
Lally said O’Malley first encouraged her to apply. O’Malley complimented Lally when she filled the job on an interim basis and made his decision after reviewing the qualifications of the finalists.
Another bloc on the council close to Murphy seems to favor Lally. In interviews Tuesday, several councilors said they would wait for the process to conclude before announcing their selection, but each described Lally’s 15 years working for Murphy as an asset.
“She has institutional knowledge,” said Councilor Salvatore LaMattina of East Boston, who is overseeing the hiring and declined to say whom he supports. “I think people respect that fact.”
Ann Hess Braga served as staff director for 12 years until October, when she took a position with the city’s department of human resources.
When Murphy became council president in 2011, he directed Braga to report to him and his chief of staff, Lally. One goal, Murphy said, was to “seize back control of the central staff and to have direction come from the president’s office.”
Two past council presidents who remain on the body, Charles C. Yancey and Michael P. Ross, disputed Murphy’s notion that central staff should take orders from the president.
“The staff director for the City Council has historically been a resource for all members of the council and not one member of the council,” Ross said. “This shouldn’t be a power grab. The council has come a long way from those days.”
Tito Jackson serves on the hiring committee but declined to say whom he will support.
“We need the best qualified individuals to be public servants,” Jackson said. “I will be casting my ballot for who I see as the best qualified individual.”