Bethel City Council considers changing rules about hiring relatives

by Ben Matheson on February 10, 2014

The Bethel city council’s effort to hire an investigator who will look into contracts and personnel issues is confidential. The council won’t say which personnel and contracts warrant investigation, but they will have to take on one dimension of the issue on Tuesday.

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A proposed change to city code address polices to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest. City administration put forth the code that loosens rules for employing family members.

Two present and recent high ranking city officials have employed children. Former police chief Larry Elarton, who resigned Thursday, employed his daughter as a patrol officer. City Manager Lee Foley’s son works in the IT department. Foley adds that the IT director does not report to him.

“Most small places recognize that you can’t even function with out having relatives works because there’s not even enough from the work pool to pull from, so they all have policies and stuff similar to this,” said Foley.

As it stands, no city employee can be supervised by relative. There also can be no employees related to the city manager, council members, or a relative of a department head in the area they work.

If passed, the city would allow employment of relatives as long as it does not create actual or perceived conflicts of interest. As written, employees would be able work in same city facility but they can’t be in the same department or have any supervisory relationship.

The council’s discussion continues this Tuesday in regular and executive session. A private investigator could cost the city $50,000. Last week Foley highlighted the cost and the city’s tough financial standing. AVEC’s takeover of BUC will drop sales tax revenue a million dollars. On top of that the federal government had not come through with payments in lieu of taxes which would have added another 800 thousand to the deficit. The farm bill passed Friday and erased that deficit. Foley says he is in support of the investigation if the council chooses to go there.

“Sometimes you can be too close to the forest to see trees. And sometimes an outside set of eyes, somebody that’s used to auditing and looking at things not a financial audit but a forensic audit. That kind of person could perhaps come in and see things that we haven’t seen over the years and could offer suggestions that could help us do things better,” said Foley.

The proposal is available here.

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