by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Dec. 19 special called meeting of the Monteagle Town Council, the council revisited consideration of an amendment to the Personnel Policy addressing nepotism. The council approved a revised version of the amendment proposed at the Dec. 8 meeting. Preliminary to the vote, the council vetted concerns about grandfathering in employees and adherence to the Sunshine Law.
The amended policy 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.”
“The revised amendment is basically the same as the state statute,” said Alderman Rusty Leonard who drafted the amendment.
The stricter original policy, adopted in 2014, prohibited the town from hiring immediate family members of existing employees.
“In a small town, it’s hard to find two people who are not kin,” said Mayor David Sampley, explaining the need for amending the policy.
Noting state nepotism law may supersede city government statutes, Leonard expressed concerns about grandfathering in employees and asked if the city attorney Harvey Cameron had been consulted.
“If the original ordinance is just paper because the state law governs us, employees we considered grandfathered in after adopting the original ordinance in 2014 more than likely aren’t grandfathered in,” Leonard said.
Sampley directed City Recorder Debbie Taylor to consult attorney Cameron on the question.
A visitor observed the council had obviously put a lot of thought into the amended ordinance and asked when the decision was made to change the language. Two or more council members discussing city business is a violation of the Sunshine Law, the visitor stressed.
“We did not violate the Sunshine Law,” Sampley said.
Alderman Delores Knott pointed to an instance when she, Leonard and former mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman discussed hiring a young man for a city position when they were riding in the 2014 Christmas parade. “Were we breaking the Sunshine Law?” Knott asked.
“If that’s what happened, we did,” Leonard said, “but I don’t remember that. We’re not supposed to discuss what we’ll bring up at meetings. That’s why we had workshops in the past.”
The council approved the amended policy unanimously. The council meets next on Jan. 30.