Nepotism no longer allowed in local Indiana government
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Muncie and Yorktown took quick action this week to comply with a new state law prohibiting nepotism in local government.
Besides the fact that Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the measure into law, effective July 1, Indiana Department of Local Government Finance informed local government that it had to pass an anti-nepotism policy or risk not having their tax budgets approved.
The law prohibits officeholders from hiring their relatives or holding public contracts with them without making certain disclosures. The law also prohibits public employees from holding any office that controls money or policies that benefit them. Any conflict would mean that officeholder could not run again for office.
Muncie City Council had a special meeting on Thursday where it adopted the new measure before the deadline.
Sara Beach, city human resources director, said the city already had an anti-nepotism policy, but was required to adopt the state law too, She did not anticipate any employment problems with the new law, but she was unsure about city contracts.
City Controller Audrey Jones added that city officials would advised about the law and be required to fill out any forms to disclose conflicts with contracted work. She did not know about any immediate conflicts.
Council members reviewed provisions of the law and adopted the measure with little comment.
It was a different case in Yorktown where council approved an anti-nepotism law, although the measure did not reflect all the definitions and prohibitions in state law.
Council member Steve Fields said definitions including references to brother and brother-in-law besides son and daughters were left out of the measure.
Town attorney Steve Murphy indicated that was an oversight after using a draft of the law supplied by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.
Fields raised the concern, given that town council President Bob Ratchford had been accused of trying to give his brother-in-law a $60,000 no bid, non union contract to install a sign at one of the gateways to the town. That project was shelved for more study while Ratchford took criticism for trying to hire family.
Another council member Robert Flanagan routinely does electrical work for the town. He, Ratchford, who runs a property restoration and management company and council member Laura Vise, an executive with First Merchants Bank, all disclosed their interests in January, given their companies might or have done business with the town.
Last month, Delaware County Commissioners adopted the law as part of their policy to keep county officeholders from hiring their family members.
Commissioner Don Dunnuck said the new law impacted some officeholders who had plans to bring family members on their payroll. There had been criticism when Jason Donati, the son of commissioners President Todd Donati, became the county storm water educator. And County Recorder Jane Lasater has her daughter, Melanie Marshall, on the county payroll from time to time.
The anti-nepotism law was part of Daniels' government reform package that also included eliminating township government which Yorktown did.
There's another reform referendum of local origin on the November ballot that would eliminate the mayor, commissioners and local councils and turn local government over to a 15-member legislative body that would appoint one of their own as an executive.
That referendum could be dead on arrival with little support from current Democratic city and county officeholders since former Republican Mayor Sharon McShurley promoted the plan. Outside of Yorktown, there also appears to be little support for that type of reform in other outlying towns that want to retain their identity.