Nepotism on Council's next agenda

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lewisburg's nepotism policy, the Police Advisory Board and traffic conditions at the intersection of Heil Quaker Avenue and Franklin Road are scheduled for discussion when the City Council meets Tuesday night in City Hall.

"I brought it up," Councilman Ronald McRady said Wednesday morning about the subject of nepotism. "Now let them take the appropriate action, and look into it and bring it back to the Council" after its monthly meeting convenes at 6 p.m.

McRady mentioned nepotism - the practice of hiring relatives - during the Council's November meeting when there was some tense discussion about police personnel policies. His remarks were directed to Councilman Hershel Davis whose son, Stanley, is a seasonal employee paid to mow grass.

That night, Davis was unfazed, indicating that McRady might be opening Pandora's box. Tuesday, as next week's agenda was being prepared for publication as a legal notice, City Manager Eddie Fuller was asked about Davis' son. As a seasonal worker, Stanley Davis has no benefits, Fuller said.

An untold number of mayors and councilmen have children working for the city as, for example, a lifeguard, or - as the others are nicknamed - rec-techs, Fuller said.

"They're making a little bit more than minimum wage without benefits," the city manager said, conceding that elected officials might know sooner than most others in town when such a job might open.

Still, that's not against the city policy on nepotism because it's intended to prevent one relative from supervising another, he said. Technically, members of the City Council employ the city manager, recorder/treasurer and city attorney, so they wouldn't be supervising a Parks Department employee.

The policy states that members of an immediate family shall not be employed within the same department of the city. If employees of the same department marry each other, they shall immediately notify the city manager who shall give them 60 days to decide which one will continue employment in the department. Failure to decide and act in 60 days is grounds for dismissal. Department directors are also to be notified if there's a marriage.

One example cited of when the policy was followed is when Steve and Rebekah Mitchell married. She remained an employee in the Police Department.

Asked if he has examples other than Hershel Davis' son, McRady replied, "We'll talk about it when it hits. I want to wait until I see what comes out on the agenda. Let it come out and see what they've done... I'm trying to document everything I can."

As McRady was reluctant to discuss that issue too much, Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. declined to discuss the Police Advisory Board, another subject on the Council's agenda. Whitehead is a member of that board, having succeeded Councilman Robin Minor.

"There are some councilmen who would like to discuss the role of the Police Advisory Board," Fuller said during a routine interview to preview the regular monthly meeting.

Another councilman asked that the Council discuss the intersection of Heil Quaker Avenue and Franklin Road.

A couple of years ago, the intersection came under the Council's review. A traffic consultant designed a change for the intersection that once accommodated extensive traffic to and from the factory that built heating and cooling systems for residential, retail, industrial and other commercial buildings.

While McRady doesn't travel through that intersection much, he says he knows residents in the area have become concerned with the way the intersection has been reconfigured.

"If a tractor trailer that came down Franklin Road (down hill from the bridge over railroad tracks) and had to make two 90-degree turns, that would concern me," McRady said. "I'm not a traffic engineer and I'm not that familiar with all of it."

And so, he was unable to explain why Franklin Road isn't a through street now, but said he looks forward to the discussion on the intersection.