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SLC Board Takes Up Nepotism Policy Amid Backlash

Taylor Holt
Updated: March 05, 2019 06:01 PM

Backlash following the way a recent St. Louis County employee was hired has the Board wanting to tighten hiring practices. The plan is with a nepotism policy introduced at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole Meeting.

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The policy stems from the decision this year by County Attorney Mark Rubin to only interview his son before bringing him on as a prosecutor.  

Before meeting privately, Board Members heard strong concerns from the public.

"Your hiring policies you should really take a look at and give people in the community a chance," said one of the attendees at the meeting.

After that portion, members convened privately to speak about the proposal. Rubin was in the room, but did not comment as it was taken up.

"St. Louis County has long had a civil service employment law that has guided the appointment practices in the county," said Human Resources Director, Jim Gottschald.

Although, the County never had a policy, Gottschald said measures have been in place, but this would put something in writing and offer more transparency.

"It is memorializing our current practice and policy but I believe it is also adding more opportunity for enforcement of the practices that may not meet the policy standards," he said.

The policy would place limitations on hiring and supervision. It states, "No employee or official shall be involved in any decision regarding hiring, promotion, supervision, salary adjustments or grievances made regarding an immediate family or significant others in the same line of authority," but that they will not be denied employment because of their family status. 

During the meeting, Commissioner Beth Olson asked under the policy, "Could a husband and wife work together in the same department?"

Gottschald answered, "Yes. If there is an immediate family member being interviewed, the appointing authority would have to recuse themselves."

Commissioner Keith Nelson was one who voiced concerns about the policy.

"We have people that get elected. They have the right to bring in people who reflect their values," said Nelson. "Instead, we are being told that someone who has served this County for 40 years has done something wrong, and the fact of the matter is he has not." 

Nelson added the policy should include Veterans' protections and argued it's not changing anything they aren't already doing. Commissioner Olson said it's needed.

"My support for this policy comes from the constituents that contacted me confused, They did not understand why we didn't have a nepotism policy. They could not understand on a face value how things apply," said Olson.

After a nearly 3 hour meeting, the Board agreed more feedback from County Departments is needed. A vote on the policy is planned for their April 2nd meeting.

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Taylor Holt

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