published Friday, July 11th, 2014

South Pittsburg clarifies nepotism

  • photo
    Kimball City Attorney and Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger
    Photo by Ryan Lewis

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. -- After the South Pittsburg City Commission re-established the town's rules on nepotism in June, some confusion arose about what the policy is intended to do.

Officials said it is just a mechanism by which the city is able to prevent favoritism in the hiring of employees.

City Commissioner Debbie Hughes said there has been some misunderstanding among residents about how far-reaching that rule could be.

The confusion has led to some "rumors swirling around" that have "blown it out of proportion," she said.

City Attorney Billy Gouger said an inquiry was made several weeks ago about whether the policy would prevent a family member of an existing city worker from running for elected office.

"The simple answer to that question is no," he said. "That's not the purpose of the nepotism policy."

Gouger said the rule is meant to prevent relatives of elected officials from being hired as a city employee.

"It doesn't work in reverse," he said. "It's not going to disqualify someone from running for an elected office."

An employee already working for the city would be "grandfathered in" if that person's relative were elected to a city position, Gouger said.

"They're not going to lose the right to their job because [a family member] becomes elected to a position in the city," he said.

Hughes said she wanted to clear up the issue so there would be no further misunderstanding about the policy.

City Administrator Sammy Burrows said in May that South Pittsburg's old nepotism rules were completely deleted by former Mayor Mike Killian and his administration.

The board voted unanimously last month to reinstate them.

"The intent of it is not to prevent someone from exercising their political rights in running for office," Gouger said. "It's just to preserve the nonpartisan decision-making in the hiring of employees."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him atryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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