published Monday, May 19th, 2014

South Pittsburg eyes nepotism rule

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Members of South Pittsburg's previous administration dumped rules against hiring relatives, but current Commissioner Jimmy Wigfall wants those standards reinstated.

Wigfall said city leaders have discussed "things that happened in the past," such as the suspension of nepotism rules, but haven't acted.

"If we don't take any action, it stays that we don't have anything [on nepotism]," Wigfall said last week at the South Pittsburg City Commission meeting.

City Administrator Sammy Burrows said the nepotism policy was removed by former Mayor Mike Killian's administration.

"It has not been changed since the previous administration changed it," he said. "It was deleted in its entirety."

Killian's sister, Mary Faye Payne, served as the South Pittsburg city recorder during much of his time in office.

In December 2010, the board unanimously appointed Payne as the city's certified municipal finance officer and awarded her a $15,000 per year raise after a six-month probationary period.

If the current board is interested in exploring the issue, Mayor Jane Dawkins said, city officials could look into what other municipalities are doing in that area.

City Attorney Billy Gouger said state agencies, such as the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service, have model policies in their recommended codes for towns like South Pittsburg.

"They have a standard nepotism policy contained in those," he said. "[UT's County Technical Assistance Service] has a similar standard policy that counties adopt and apply."

"That would be a good place to start looking," Dawkins said.

Burrows said the town used the MTAS model policy before it was erased by former city leaders.

Wigfall asked that the matter be put on the agenda for the board's next budget workshop, which hasn't been scheduled yet.

"We need to discuss it and get some more information to see where we need to be," he said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryan lewis34@gmail.com.

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