City BOE may re-review nepotism policy

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  The policy of nepotism, a fancy schmancy word for people in power hiring their kin, could come up for discussion when the Elizabethton Board of Education meets tonight.
   An alteration of the board's existing nepotism policy could open the door for family members of board members or Superintendent Dr. David Roper to become full-time employees of the city school system.
  Current School Board policy prohibits nepotism, or hiring immediate family members of any sitting school board member or the superintendent. Board members agreed at their Sept. 16 meeting to place the nepotism policy up for review when they met in October.
   Board Chairman Dr. Bob Sams produced a copy of the Carter County School System's nepotism policy that the city system could reference if a policy revision was considered. Sams suggested the city board possibly blend the county's policy - which allows the hiring of family members provided their relationship is disclosed - with the city's existing policy.
  The county school system's policy does not prohibit the hiring of family members of school board members and school administrators. The policy also permits hiring relatives of Carter County Commission members or any other elected county official. Spouses and other relatives of county school board members have worked in the county school system in years past.
  The county system's policy requires a person being considered for county school employment to make public his or her relationship to any county school board member or elected county official.
  Board member Bob Berry noted at that meeting the policy had prohibited his daughter from being a part-time coach for the Elizabethton High School girls' volleyball team. Board members said in September that the system's pool of applicants seeking various jobs within the system was shrinking.
  The school board began a review of board policies either new or revised under state law at its August meeting. The nepotism policy re-review was not listed on Thursday night's agenda.
  Sams and BOE Vice Chairman Judy Richardson are both running for re-election to the school board in the city's Nov. 2 election. In candidate profile interviews with the Star last week, both were asked about the future of the policy.
  Richardson said if an applicant had the best qualifications, he or she should have the opportunity. Richardson added, however, that she was not sure changing the nepotism policy would serve any great purpose.
  Sams said he doubted the policy would be reviewed at the October meeting.
  The city of Elizabethton's policy on nepotism prohibits the immediate family member of a city employee from being hired under the same line of supervision as a relative. The policy defines employee relatives as a spouse, parent, sibling, child, in-laws, or step-relatives.
   The city's policy makes no reference to council members who have no authority to hire any city worker except the city's attorney.
   "The charter does not authorize council members to have any involvement in personnel," said Charles Stahl, Elizabethton city manager. "The city manager employs all personnel in the city.
  "I have no member of my family or wife's family in city government," he added.
  The city government's policy does not preclude employment of other family members in other supervision or other capacities. It is possible to be employed by the city if you are not under the same lines of supervision.
  "There is reason for the policy," Stahl said of the city's nepotism rules, "and it works."