Craighead County JP's vote against 3rd reading of ethics ordinance

Craighead County JP's vote against 3rd reading of ethics ordinance

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - 8:10 p.m., Dec. 19 UPDATE: The Craighead County Quorum Court voted 6-5 against a plan Monday night to create an ethics and nepotism policy for county employees.

According to administrative assistant Tony Thomas, justices Billie Sue Hoggard, Garry Meadows, Josh Longmire, David Tennison and Richard Rogers voted in favor of the plan. Voting against were justices Max Render, Ray Kidd, Jim Bryant, Fred Bowers, Terry Couch and Steve Cline.

Two members of the quorum court - Barbara Weinstock and Ken Stacks - were absent, Thomas said.

5:53 p.m., Dec. 12 UPDATE: The Craighead County Quorum Court voted Monday night to approve the second reading of an ordinance to create a nepotism policy for Craighead County employees.

According to administrative assistant Tony Thomas, the ordinance was held to a second reading and is expected to receive a third and final reading Dec. 19 in Jonesboro.

A final vote on the policy is expected at the meeting, Thomas said.

9:15 p.m. UPDATE: Justices voted 7-6 in favor of the ordinance's first reading, setting discussion for the Dec. 12 meeting, Thomas said.

A nepotism policy for Craighead County employees cleared a key hurdle Monday with the approval of its first reading.

During the meeting at the Craighead County Courthouse, justices approved the first reading and will take up the ordinance again at its Dec. 12 meeting, administrative assistant Tony Thomas said Monday night. The county's Public Service Committee approved the ordinance Nov. 14, sending it to the full court for their review.

The ordinance was brought up in part due to concerns earlier this year regarding tax collector Marsha Phillips hiring family members to fill vacancies in her office.

The proposed ordinance deals with actual or potential conflicts of interest, any sort of personal gain a county employee might receive and bans employees from being under the direct supervision of a relative.

"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 ordinance notes.

As for personal gain, the ordinance provides clarity on what the rules are for county employees.

"No "presumption of guilt" is created by the mere existence of a relationship with outside firms. However, if employees have 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 ordinance notes. "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.  For more information, refer to A.C.A  §14-14-1202."

The proposed ordinance would cover only new hires by the county, officials have said.

The ordinance would also set rules on not working directly with relatives.

"A "relative" is defined in paragraph one of this section (see above). 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 ordinance noted.

"However, this does not alter the status of that person as an "at-will" employee.  The nepotism provision applies to all employees hired after the date of adoption of these personnel policies and procedures by the Craighead County Quorum Court."

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