Craighead County committee approves nepotism, ethics policy

Craighead County committee approves nepotism, ethics policy

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A policy dealing with conflicts of interest, ethics and nepotism for county employees received approval Monday night from a key Craighead County committee, setting up a vote later this month.

The Craighead County Public Service Committee voted to approve the policy, administrative assistant Tony Thomas told Region 8 News. Under the proposal, which will be voted on Nov. 28 by the entire court, county employees would be prohibited from doing certain things.

The detailed policy would codify what is considered an actual or potential conflict of interest, the dealing of county employees with outside firms and what happens if a county employee receives any sort of personal gain from a person doing business with the county.

"An actual or potential conflict of interest occurs when an employee is in a position to influence a decision that may result in a personal gain for that employee or for a family member as a result of business dealings with Craighead County. For the purposes of this policy, a family member is mother, father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son, daughter, foster or stepchildren, husband, wife, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, and granddaughter," the policy noted.

In the proposed policy, officials were sure to say that no presumption of guilt is created by the mere existence of a relationship with outside firms. "However, if an employee has any influence on transactions involving purchases, contracts, or leases, it is imperative that they disclose it to his/her supervisor/elected official and Purchasing Department as soon as possible the existence of any actual or potential conflict of interest so that safeguards can be established to protect all parties," the policy noted.

Also, the policy covers any sort of possible illegal or improper activity among county employees.

"Personal gain may result not only in cases where an employee or family member has a significant ownership interest in a firm with which Craighead County does business, but also when an employee or family member receives any kickback, bribe, substantial gift, or special consideration as a result of any transaction or business dealing involving Craighead County.  Craighead County recognizes the right of employees to engage in activities outside of their employment which are of a private nature and unrelated to our activities.  However, the employee must disclose conflicts so that Craighead County may assess and prevent potential conflicts of interest from arising," the policy noted.

As for employment, family members can work for the county but cannot be under "within the same line of supervision."

"No employee shall be under the direct line of supervision of a relative. A relative is defined in paragraph one of this section. When marriage results in an employee being supervised by a relative, the situation may be resolved by transfer to another available position in the County or resignation. If transfer alternatives are available, the employee will be given the opportunity to select among the available alternatives. If no alternative position is available within 60 days, the County will take action to resolve the situation up to and including immediate termination."

The nepotism provision, if approved, will apply to all employees hired after the date of the adoption of the policy, Thomas said. 

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