The Hamilton County Commission will vote next week on a measure that would prohibit the use of county funds to pay family members of those who are elected officials serving in positions laid out in the state constitution.
The resolution was proposed by Commissioner Tim Boyd, R-East Brainerd, at Wednesday's agenda meeting. He specifically stated it was not a nepotism law, but rather a "good government" measure to ensure the proper spending of taxpayer money.
"We have realized over the past year there have been abuses of this opportunity, a loophole if you will," he said, adding that if his legislation is approved it will go into effect July 1.
The resolution would not prevent family members from being employed by one of the elected officials — a group that includes positions such as the district attorney, judges and public defender. Instead, the measure prohibits county funding of such a position. If the measure becomes law, the officials would have to pay for the salary of a family member working under them using donations, state or federal funds.
Boyd and the commission office put out a notice to all offices of the 26 elected officials targeted by the measure saying they must confirm whether they employ family members of the officials, Boyd said.
Six offices have not replied, but Boyd did not respond to follow-up requests seeking the names of those offices.
Of the 20 offices that replied, one employee would be affected, Boyd said. He added he is aware of at least two affected employees among the six who had not yet responded.
Sheriff Jim Hammond's son, Jimi Hammond, works as manager of the sheriff's office's IT team. He is an employee whose position funding could be impacted by the resolution, the sheriff confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
Hammond said he did not want to comment further before the resolution is voted on, but he said he does not supervise his son, who was hired through the civil service process.
Commissioners Chip Baker, R-Signal Mountain, and Greg Martin, R-Hixson, commended the proposal at Wednesday's meeting.
"I think it's really important that the constitutional officers are elected by the people and held accountable by the people," Martin said. "Our focus as commissioners, as commissioner Boyd has pointed out, is county funds."
Baker said the proposal was "obviously thought through."
Officials said the district attorney's office would be one of the offices impacted by the legislation. Boyd already has a history of butting heads with District Attorney Neal Pinkston over allegations of nepotism.
Boyd said the DA's office was one of the six offices that didn't respond to his requests. Pinkston's office declined to comment on the matter.
Last year, Boyd proposed a resolution to cut supplemental funding to the district attorney's office.
Questions first arose about whether Pinkston was employing relatives during a routine budget hearing in May. At that time, Pinkston said he was not.
The Times Free Press later reported that the district attorney married a subordinate, Melydia Clewell, in 2019 and hired her brother, Kerry Clewell, in 2020.
To avoid potentially breaking state nepotism law, Pinkston transferred Clewell to the county payroll in August 2021 and Kerry Clewell the following month. Both were given raises.
Shortly afterward, Boyd's proposal to cut funding to the district attorney's office was dropped when Pinkston appeared before the commission despite initially saying he did not want to be questioned about relatives on his payroll.
During the meeting, Pinkston said he gave a "true and correct" answer to the original budget question when it was first posed in May because his relatives were still state employees at that time.
He later moved them to the county payroll, he said, because of concerns raised by the state district attorneys' conference, an administrative agency in Nashville that helps local DA's offices, which have state and county funding sources.
Pinkston alleged that the concerns at the state level were raised by Boyd, who denied making any complaints before Pinkston's relatives were moved out of the state budget.
Pinkston has accused Boyd of pursuing the issue in retaliation for a 2018 extortion indictment brought by Pinkston against Boyd that later was dismissed. The extortion case claimed Boyd tried to threaten a political rival with release of damaging information if the person did not withdraw
Contact Logan Hullinger at email@example.com or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.