During the August 3rd, 2015 Kinston City Council meeting, Councilman Wynn Whittington brought up for discussion the City’s nepotism policy. The current City policy reads:
Sec. 2-140. – Employment of relatives
“The hiring of a relative of the city manager, personnel director, or of the mayor or any member of the city council after his election or appointment and during his term of office is prohibited. Likewise, no person shall be hired or assigned to work under the administrative influence or supervision of a relative, nor shall any employee’s relative be hired without prior written approval of the city manager. “Relative” means wife, husband, mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, grandmother, grandfather, grandson, granddaughter and also step, half and in-law relationships.”
See the entire breakout starting at page 66 HERE.
Mr. Whittington’s brother, upon application, was not hired due to this long time policy. The policy is now being challenged by Mr. Whittington with at least two other Council members considering his argument valid. Opinion aside, this is and was policy when Whittington’s relative applied for the job. For this Council member to make this a personal issue and bring it before the body and the public not only puts the rest of Council and the City Manager in an uncomfortable spot but illustrates the very reason why the Nepotism Policy exists.
The City Manager was asked to do a comparative study of towns in the state that had similar policies and the results were neither a help or a hindrance. However the discussion led to Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem recommending the HR Director draft a new, less stringent, policy that would include “direct supervision” language. The Mayor has been a vocal opponent of an amendment. By inserting “direct supervision” language the desired effect is to nullify the City Council and Mayor portion of the current policy allowing relatives access to employment. That portion of the amended version reads:
“The initial employment of relatives of the mayor or any member of the city council after his/her election or appointment and during his/her term of office is permitted, provided there is not a direct or indirect reporting relationship.” (See page 16 HERE)
I ask the Council members not to miss the point. The entire reasoning behind a nepotism policy is to eliminate the possibility of those with power or influence to show favoritism of their relatives. Without an effective nepotism policy, even if there’s no favoritism, at minimum that perception by other employees will always exist. The Mayor and City Council members simply have too much influence, direct or indirect, over department heads. So, if the brother of a City Council member were insubordinate, the department head may be apprehensive to deal with that insubordination out of fear of retribution by said Council member. Conversely, when a relative of an elected official is up of hire the department head may feel beholden to hire the relative or even fear not to.
The City Council meets at 7:00 PM on Monday, August 17th. Public comments will be heard early in the agenda attached HERE. You may also come early for the work session at 5:30 PM. Make your concerns heard. Don’t be one to ask, “What are they going to do about it?”…… YOU are THEY!
Write a letter to the editor. Since this will most like go to vote on Monday, the letters to the editor are due Thursday, 8/13/15. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and the Kinston Free Press.
You may also write your Council Members directly at email@example.com