​Monteagle Council Postpones Vote on Nepotism Amendment

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Dec. 8 special called meeting of the Monteagle Town Council, the council voted to postpone the vote on the amendment to the Personnel Policy addressing nepotism and to reschedule the meeting for a later date. The proposed amendment would have allowed the city to hire immediate family members of city officials when there was no direct supervisory relationship.
“In a small town like Monteagle, it’s hard to find people not related,” Mayor David Sampley explained. The town has two unfilled positions. The person approved to fill the position of court clerk at the last council meeting is a third cousin of a city official, Sampley said.
The current Personnel Policy prohibits hiring anyone related to a city official.
Alderman Rusty Leonard objected to the meeting not being adequately publicized and expressed concern “the proposed amendment will create an issue for us. Anyone hired by the city is under direct supervision of the board.”
Visitor Carole Manganaro said the notice announcing the meeting was vague and gave no clear indication of what was being changed. “I was suspect why this particular clause had such high priority to be changed post election.”
“The employee in dispute is no relation to any of the council members,” Sampley said. “Both positions needing filled would be under supervision of the police chief.”
Vice Mayor Jessica Blalock added, “The police chief is not kin to the person hired to serve as court clerk. The third-cousin relationship is to someone else within the city.”
Leonard cited the state nepotism statute which allows for hiring relatives so long as they were not related to the official who would be their direct supervisor, insisting the state statute was preferable to the current policy.
Sampley pointed out the state statute was very similar to the proposed amendment.
Alderman Kenneth Gipson asked if inadequate notice was the only issue Leonard had with approving the amendment.
Leonard stressed again all city employees were directly supervised by the council. “We need to word the amendment in such a way that it is clear and makes clear to the public what we’re doing,” Leonard said. “I voted for the current policy, but I wouldn’t vote for it now. Having read the state statute, I see where we failed.”
Leonard made a motion to reschedule the meeting giving a minimum seven-day notice which clearly stated what would be addressed at the meeting.
Alderman Delores Knott said, “I wish it had been this way for several years now.” Knott proposed the council publish a specific agenda prior to council meetings. “Publishing the agenda was not the practice in the past,” Knott said. “We have nothing to hide. I want to make that very clear.”
The council voted four to one to postpone the vote and reschedule the meeting, with Knott voting in opposition. The meeting has been rescheduled for 5 p.m., Monday, Dec. 19.
The newly revised nepotism amendment reads: No city employees who are relatives shall be placed within the same direct line of supervision whereby one (1) relative is responsible for supervising the job performance or work activities of another relative; provided, that to the extent possible, this shall not be construed to prohibit two (2) or more such relatives from working for the town of Monteagle as long as they are not employed by the same department.