Adopt tougher nepotism standards

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 04:10 PM

The Monroe City Council should adopt the proposed personnel ordinance that prohibits council members from attempting to influence hiring decisions and that toughens the city standards on nepotism. And the vote should be unanimous.

This will send a clear message to city employees and to the public at large that no one is going to get away with playing favorites or feathering the nest for family members.

It is a message that is vital right now.

Nepotism and favoritism are insidious allegations that can damage employee morale and, in turn, employee performance. If employees believe that jobs and promotions and assignments go to a chosen few who are related to or protected by the powerful, there is little reason to believe hard work will produce promotion and success. And that leads straight to mediocrity or worse.

Fairness, equal opportunity and equal treatment are so vital to a healthy workplace that even the appearance of wrongdoing — like rumors that high officials get traffic tickets quashed by prosecutors — can erode the public’s faith in justice and foster a belief that a good old boy system rewards only a select few.

The best defense against the perception of wrongdoing is the strict prohibition of nepotism and favoritism. The policy before the council would ban the hiring of any immediate family members of the mayor or any council member. And it would prohibit elected officials from offering recommendations or direction in personnel decisions like promotions, demotions and disciplinary action. It should be adopted.

Three council members opposed it on first reading, ostensibly because they reject the findings of the so-called Parker Poe study that spawned he recommendations. But whether the study is flawed or factual is not the issue. The issue is that a perception exists among the public that council has meddled where it should not have and that members have improperly influenced decisions. True or not, the perception is damaging and must be addressed.

The surest way to do that is to adopt tougher standards. That will deliver a clear message to everyone that all board members know and understand that any abuse of power is unacceptable.