Posted on

County passes nepotism law

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday evening approved a nepotism ordinance to fall in line with the state law to be enacted on July 1 that restricts local officials from hiring or promoting family members or relatives.
The ordinance and state law specifies that relatives may not be employed by the county in positions that result in one relative being in the direct line of supervision of the other relative.
The law applies to all county entities including townships and fire departments.
‘This has been going on for several months now,’ Commissioner Chair James Goldman said. ‘We’ve worked on it … it’s not something we’re looking at tonight and making a quick decision.’
The county had to make a decision before the July 1 deadline or else the department of local government finance could potentially hold off on approving the county budget.
Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the new law in March that prohibits local officeholders from hiring relatives or from having public contracts with them without making certain disclosures. The law also prohibits public employees from holding any office that controls money or policies that might benefit them. Under that provision, those employees couldn’t run for re-election but they could keep their current position.
The law defines a relative to include a spouse, parent or step parent, a child or stepchild, a brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister, a niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, daughter-in-law or son-in-law, adopted child and a half brother or sister.
The board adopted a provision to allow those family members already in a position to be ‘grandfathered’ in. However, the elected official will have to fill out paperwork and turn it in to the county clerk’s office if he/she plans to retain family members.
The commissioners elected to not have the law apply to the county sheriff’s spouse being employed as jail matron or relatives of the coroner serving as deputy.
‘It ought to be the same with both of them (sheriff and coroner),’ Goldman said. ‘We need to be consistent.’
The new law doesn’t ban relatives from working with one another, but no one can directly supervise a relative.
In other business Monday, Harrison County SNAP (Spay and Neuter Assistance Program) director Tanya Tuell introduced the organization’s mascot, a large brown dog costume, which has visited several schools already. Tuell plans to set up a booth at the Lanesville Heritage Weekend festival in September.
Tuell also informed the board that the Crawford County SNAP launched this week after $2,000 was approved by the Crawford County Council. Tuell will also coordinate that program.
‘I’m really pleased they’re starting this,’ she said. ‘Hopefully, we’ll get more money in the future.’
Year to date, the Harrison County program has spayed or neutered 299 dogs and 375 cats.
Harrison County Engineer Kevin Russel provided the board with a conceptual drawing of a potential parking lot in the grass area south of the Justice Center to provide more parking spaces to the building. Russel said the full lot would provide an additional 192 parking spaces.
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes said he would like to see the county pursue constructing half of the lot.
The board also approved the construction and placement of electricity and water lines leading from the maintenance building at the Government Center complex to the concrete area that will be the location of Purdue Extension’s greenhouse next year. The Master Gardener program will use the structure.