Nepotism ordinance approved in Craighead County

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A nepotism policy for Craighead County employees was approved Monday night, with the policy taking effect in 30 days, County Administrative Assistant Tony Thomas said.

The 8-3 vote on the ordinance ended several months of debate on the issue.

The new policy amends the county employment and personnel policy manual to deal with conflicts of interest, ethics, and nepotism.

On the conflict of interest part of the policy, the rules are clear.

"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," the policy states. "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."

While there is no presumption of guilt due to the existence of a relationship with outside firms, the policy requires employees to disclose any transaction involving purchases, contracts, or leases to either a supervisor, elected official or the county purchasing department.

The policy also bans employees from being under the direct line of supervision of a relative and requires county employees who are married from not being a supervisor of the other person.

"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," the policy notes. "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 was also discussed June 26 at the Craighead County Quorum Court meeting.

A committee discussed the proposal. Thomas said at the time that the ordinance would be based on a November 2016 ordinance. That ordinance was voted down by a 6-5 margin.

That ordinance would have dealt with conflict-of-interest rules for county employees as well as forbidding family members from being under the direct supervisor of one another.

The Craighead County Quorum Court voted not to create an ethics and nepotism policy at a meeting last November.

The ordinance was first talked about earlier this years after then-tax collector Marsha Phillips hired some of her family members to fill vacancies in her office.

Craighead County Judge Ed Hill sat down with Region 8 News and discussed the issue.

"We'll go by the same policy we've went by," Hill said. "We've got some good elected officials. Hadn't seemed to be a problem except for one or two instances. We had some JP's that thought it was a good idea and some that didn't"

Hill said at the time that he thought that the issue will come back up again.

"Public service may want to revisit it and bring it back up or they may not," Hill said. "If we have issues, they may and if we don't have issues, the may not. You know, time will tell."

Craighead County justices voted last December to approve the county's 2017 budget, providing funding for county operations.

According to Administrative Assistant Tony Thomas, the 8-4 vote came after the third and final reading of the budget which takes effect Jan. 1.

Voting in favor of the budget were justices Fred Bowers, Steve Cline, Terry Couch, Ray Kidd, Jim Bryant, David Tennison, Barbara Weinstock and Max Render. Voting against the budget were justices Richard Rogers, Billie Sue Hoggard, Josh Longmire and Garry Meadows.

In other action, justices approved three personnel-related moves at the Lake City courthouse. The finance committee approved a new clerk's position at the collector's office, moved the funding of the Eastern District collector's position to the Assessor's office and approved a full-time position in the county juvenile department.

Justices also approved a resolution dealing with navigable waters, while the Finance Committee heard a report on voting machines from the Craighead County Election Commission.

The voting machine issue will be discussed further at the June 26 meeting, Thomas said.

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