CBIZ says Mallory Zila hired on ‘merit of her candidacy,’ but doesn’t provide details about selection process

Superintendent Jim Hinson and Board of Education member Deb Zila. Reader submitted photo.

CBIZ, the Shawnee Mission School District’s insurance broker and benefits coordinator, on Wednesday responded to questions about the hiring process that led to the selection of Mallory Zila, the daughter of Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education member Deb Zila’s daughter, for an in-district job.

CBIZ Kansas City President Polly Thomas provided the following statement on the issue, which it also posted on its website:

CBIZ has an equal opportunity employment policy and the decision to hire the benefits manager in question was made on the merit of her candidacy. The benefits manager position is an entry level opportunity for those with an interest in employee benefits related careers. Strong customer relationship skills and attention to detail are the foremost requirements for our new hires in this role and the employee in question appropriately met those standards. Out of respect for the privacy for all of our candidates, we have no further comment.

Prior to her employment with CBIZ, Zila, a 2013 graduate of Kansas State University, worked at Nordstrom.

Asked if she could elaborate on how much experience the previous employee benefits coordinator had, and how many candidates were interviewed for the position when it came open last year, Thomas responded, “out of respect for the privacy of all candidates considered for the position we have no further comments.”

CBIZ, which began providing insurance brokerage services to the district in 2014, received an administrative service fee of $328,700 from Blue Cross — not the Shawnee Mission School District — for the services it provided the district for the 2016 benefit year, according to the district. The salaries of both Mallory Zila and Tammie McCoy, CBIZ’s wellness coordinator, are paid out of those administrative service fee funds — but it’s unclear how much goes to their salaries, and how much goes elsewhere.

“As mentioned before, the Wellness Coordinator and the Benefits Coordinator are CBIZ employees as they were with the previous vendor,” said Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwith. “The District has no knowledge of their salary or benefit compensation.”

The responses continue to leave murky the circumstances that led to Mallory’s hiring in the spring of 2016, and raise questions about whether Deb Zila would be able to consider board business related to the district’s contract with CBIZ without a serious conflict of interest. With her daughter employed in an in-district job with CBIZ, it would be unclear whether Zila would be considering an issue from the perspective of what’s in the best fiduciary interests of Shawnee Mission School District patrons, or what’s in the best interest of her daughter’s employer.

Zila voted in favor of moving the insurance broker contract from the district’s provider at the time to CBIZ in late 2013. She also voted in favor of a substantial raise for Superintendent Jim Hinson in 2015. Earlier this week Zila denied using any influence to secure the CBIZ job for her daughter.

Asked for comment Wednesday on whether the board of education has policies in place to deal with such situations and what steps it takes to ensure against conflicts of interest, neither Deb Zila nor Board of Education President Sara Goodburn responded.