Slipping nepotism into code more unnecessary than civil

By BURKE WASSON

While Crestwood city employees benefited last week from a new civil-service code, there’s nothing civil about nepotism, which unfortunately was stuck into that code.

In 2006, aldermanic candidate Tom Ford was told that if elected, his son would forfeit his post as a city police officer. The issue then died when Chris Pickel was elected over Ford.

But we learned in January that Mayor Roy Robinson directed City Attorney Robert Golterman in the spring of 2006 to draft an ordinance allowing city employees to retain their jobs after a family member is elected. While he has never publicly attached Ford’s name to this, Robinson has referenced a “situation” tied to a 2006 candidate for his reasoning. Being that Ford was the only 2006 candidate with a city-employed family member, it’s not a real stretch to imagine who the mayor had in mind when he requested this ordinance, which was slipped into the revised civil-service code last week.

It’s also interesting that the mayor influenced such a change to the civil-service code when, based on minutes of 2006 Civil Service Board meetings, he did not attend one meeting.

Robinson has spearheaded some positive changes, notably the property-tax increase Proposition S to pay off a $2 million debt by 2013. But instead of doing a personal favor for a friend, Robinson should have been more interested in serving the public good. When elected officials allow personal relationships to influence public responsibilities, their priorities are clouded.

All we seek is consistency. If city employees stay after a family member is elected, then all family members of current aldermen also should be eligible for city employment.

The effect would be the same either way. An alderman would be making decisions that would, in some fashion, affect a family member.

And future aldermen with a family member on city payroll should abstain from votes that affect a family member, particularly approval of the city’s annual budget. Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland, who along with Pickel and Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher had the common sense to vote against this endorsement of nepotism, has also suggested that idea. And why not?

Would you feel comfortable knowing that an alderman could give a pay raise to a family member?

The new civil-service code was recommended and necessary because of changes in federal and state law since the last code was adopted in 1996.

But slipping nepotism into that code is more unnecessary than civil.