Eddy A. Herrera was hired as a legislative aide for a vacant position on the operations staff on July 19, according to House spokesman Larry Berman.

Herrera is registered to vote at the same address used by Williams, and her legislative biography notes that one of her five children is named Eddy.

Williams, after a brief conversation yesterday, did not respond to requests for comment. 

First elected in 1992, Williams has taken on a higher profile in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. She has criticized Gov. Gina Raimondo’s record on issues involving people of color, and, joined by other lawmakers, outlined a series of measures intended to improve the situation.

The Public’s Radio has learned that the vacancy filled by Herrara was created by the firing of Frank Franco, who was arrested and charged by Providence police earlier this year on drug charges.

John Marion, executive director of the good government group Common Cause of Rhode Island, said the hiring of Herrera appears to be an instance of patronage.

“We know that the legislature has quite a bit of patronage,” Marion said, citing a report by The Public’s Radio that documented a rise in patronage from Mattiello’s Cranston district, “where people seem to get jobs in the General Assembly based on who they know as much as what they know, and their political connections to the legislative leadership. This would seem to be another case of that.”

Marion noted that all of the hundreds of employees at the General Assembly work on an “at will” basis, meaning they work at the pleasure of the leadership, “which allows patronage to be used for the hiring process.”

When a relative of a lawmaker gets a state job, Marion said, it raises the question of whether other people are overlooked.

While employing relatives in a private family business is fine, he said, “these are taxpayer dollars and this is our government. It’s not the legislative leadership’s government to give away these jobs.”

Marion notes that the hire of Williams’ son comes at a time of minimal legislative activity at the Statehouse and continued uncertainty about the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

“I have to wonder, why are they hiring operation staff at a time when seemingly they wouldn’t need as much support staff, because there is far less public activity occurring in the building,” Marion said.

The state Office of Management and Budget imposed a restriction on state hiring in March, saying that are positions or procurement requests will be rejected unless they “address immediate health and safety needs and/or are not deemed to be critical to agency operations and/or federal- and state-mandated programs. Every effort should be made to maximize federal and restricted receipts and related positions, wherever allowable, to achieve general revenue savings.”