Nepotism ban passes with split vote

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A policy against hiring and appointing supervisors’ family members passes by a 3-2 vote in Grayson, with one supervisor saying it doesn’t go far enough.

By Patrick Smith

INDEPENDENCE — After going back to the drawing board and composing three drafts, Grayson County Supervisors passed an anti-nepotism policy last Thursday night; however, two supervisors opposed the “tweaks” in the new draft.
The original draft of the anti-nepotism policy presented to the supervisors during their February meeting prohibited the board from appointing or hiring any family member and would have forced supervisors to disclose familial relationships before new hires or appointments.
“Family” of board members was defined as spouse, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews, as well as adopted, half, and step members of the immediate family.
In the second draft, aunts and uncles were no longer defined as family.
During the March 13 meeting, Supervisor At-Large David Sexton made a motion to adopt the third draft of the policy, which would still allow supervisors to appoint any family member to any board-appointed position in the county, but prohibits the hiring of “family” of county supervisors.
It would still prevent more than one member of a particular family from serving on a county-appointed board, and would require supervisors to disclose familial relations before consideration of employment.
Wilson District Supervisor Eddie Rosenbaum seconded Sexton’s motion to approve this draft of the policy, but before the vote was called, Elk Creek Supervisor Brenda Sutherland questioned its effectiveness.
Sexton explained his reasoning for supporting the draft. “I think you’ll find [family member conflicts] a rarity on these appointments. I remember someone saying at the last meeting that we didn’t want any ‘stacking of the deck’ of anybody’s family members. Option III prevents that. It clearly states that no more than one family member can be appointed” to a board.
Rosenbaum added that “we’ve always got the safety valve of the board [of supervisors].”
“Once someone makes a motion to appoint a family member and they identify them as a family member, then it still has to be voted through by the board,” he said. “And I can’t think of an instance like that where anybody wanted to do anything out of line.”
He then asked County Administrator Jonathan Sweet if he could think of any such instance.
Sweet laughed and replied, “At this moment I’m not prepared to answer that question with any specific example.”
Rosenbaum said he couldn’t think of one, either.
“Just because other counties have adopted it – this is Grayson County,” Rosenbaum said. “I think it’s a good thing, and it’s not backing the board against the wall … and if you run into an instance where it is a relative of one of the board members and they are nominated because they’re more qualified than anybody else they can find, then I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t have that opportunity.”
Supervisors’ Chairman John Brewer recommended forming a list of individuals in the county with interest in serving in particular positions for the board’s reference. He added that sometimes the supervisors are forced to find citizens to fill positions on short notice, and sometimes they turn to family members in “desperation.”
Oldtown Supervisor Kenneth Belton, who originally introduced the idea of the anti-nepotism policy and supported the original draft, then weighed in.
“Times have changed,” he said. “People need to know they can trust all of us, being family members or not.
He said the board was supposed to approve an anti-nepotism policy, and he didn’t feel that the draft up for approval fit that definition. “I think it needs to be black and white – it needs to be absolutely no family members.”
Following Belton’s comments, Sexton’s motion to adopt the third draft of the anti-nepotism policy into the board’s rules of procedure passed by an expected 3-2 vote, with Sexton, Rosenbaum and Brewer in support and Belton and Sutherland opposing.