County moves to tighten nepotism rules

Employees in same family restricted

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007

County officials are considering policy changes that would make it easier for outsiders to get county jobs and make government less of a family affair.

Officials are planning to strengthen the county’s nepotism rules — regarding employment of members of the same family — and require that all open positions be publicly posted.

They discussed the rule changes Sept. 25 during a review of proposed changes to the county’s policy manual by Human Resources Director Stephen Brayman. The new policies are scheduled for adoption next week.

Brayman, along with County Administrator Paul W. Comfort, spent the last six weeks overhauling the manual to reflect new laws and the commissioners’ policy goals.

The current manual prohibits members of an immediate family from managing each other within a county department. The rule has the effect of prohibiting family members in the same department from being promoted to management positions.

Under the proposed rule, the county would not be allowed to hire someone into a department that already employs an immediate family member.

According to Brayman, 47 of the county’s more than 700 employees work in the same department with immediate family members.

‘‘That’s a high percentage of employees,” observed commissioners’ President F. Wayne Cooper (D).

In order to shake up the county’s hiring practices further, Brayman and Comfort proposed that departments be allowed to advertise jobs internally only if there are three or more qualified candidates already working for county government. Currently, the county is not required to advertise its jobs to the public.

Comfort said that centralizing hiring duties away from the individual departments to the county’s human resources department would further limit favoritism in hiring and increase racial diversity.

Currently, individual department managers handle their own hiring without significant input from human resources.

But Cooper wanted to kick the process wide open.

‘‘To remove the image that you need to know somebody in county government or have a relative in county government to get a job in county government, then you need to advertise [open positions] outside county government,” Cooper said.

The commissioners agreed with Cooper and asked Brayman to redraft the rule to require that all open county positions be advertised publicly.

Brayman then proposed that the county significantly increase funding for tuition reimbursement for employees. By allowing current employees to better their education and remain competitive with outside applicants, Brayman said they would be more likely to stay with the county and work their way up the ranks.

‘‘I would like to see us move up,” Brayman said.

Brayman presented a revised draft of the new policy manual to the commissioners Tuesday for approval, but the commissioners delayed adopting the policy until next week.

Commissioner Edith J. Patterson (D), said she had reservations about adopting the manual before having a chance to fully review the changes. Commissioner Samuel N. Graves Jr. (D) agreed, saying he hadn’t had the time to fully review the changes either. The commissioners are scheduled to take up policy deliberations again next Wednesday.

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