Aug 18, 2010

City OKs Nepotism Ordinance

By Ben Boulden • TIMES RECORD

In a 6-1 vote, the Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday approved an ordinance to address issues of nepotism and favoritism.

Ward 1 Director Steve Tyler voted no.

At-Large Director Kevin Settle proposed several weeks ago that the city adopt a nepotism policy and last week asked that the language of the ordinance be revised.

With the change, policy now would prohibit the city from employing a member of the immediate family of an elected municipal official.

An early draft also listed in-laws, cousins and other relatives.

One provision in the new policy proposal also would prevent an elected city official from taking a salaried job with the city while serving in office and within two years after leaving office.

It also keeps former elected officials from having an interest in any contract or job for work or services to be furnished or performed for the city.

Eric Arthur, who is running against Settle for position 6 on the board, spoke during the meeting to recommend a five-year ban on jobs or contracts for former elected officials.

"I really just didn't think (the nepotism ordinance) was necessary," Tyler said after the meeting. "There's more of a chance that you could have a good person who was ready to go to work for the city who was a relative, who would be the best candidate. I think you have to trust human resources to make the best decision. I would think that if there are two people that were equal then it would go against the relative because of public perception anyway."

He said he has no family member applying or interested in applying for a job with the city and no personal interest in any either.

The board unanimously passed an ordinance reorganizing some of the administrative structure of the city so more department heads report directly to City Administrator Dennis Kelly.

Human Resources, Information Technology, Engineering, Planning, Building and Neighborhood Services departments are among those that will still report to Deputy Administrator Ray Gosack.

Departments of utilities, streets, parks and recreation, transit, fire, police, finance and legal would report to Kelly.

Gosack also would take on more of the intergovernmental responsibilities such as state legislation, federal lobbying efforts and representation on regional bodies like the Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority.

In other business, the board unanimously agreed to:

• Order the demolition of two dilapidated storage buildings at 812 S. 23rd St. and 801 N. 48th St.

• Issue $75 million in industrial development bonds it first considered and approved in June as part of a financing package for a Mitsubishi wind power turbine manufacturing plant to be built at Chaffee Crossing.

To fill vacancies on city boards and commissions, the directors after an executive session appointed Tonya Novak to the city's Housing Assistance Board. They also named John Huffman and Marhsall Sharpe to fill two open spots on the Planning Commission.