WARNER ROBINS — City officials acknowledge the working relationships of four city employees are in violation of an anti-nepotism ordinance because of their familial relations. Two are father and daughter, and the other two are related by marriage.
According to the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance, the pairs are allowed to work for the city as long as their individual work relationships don’t overlap. That has happened in both cases.
City officials admit hiring and promotion processes have been lax concerning the anti-nepotism ordinance, but expect to be more careful in the future.
“There do appear to be a handful (of city employees’ work relationships) that appear to be in violation (of city rules),” City Attorney Jim Elliott said. “There was a decision made beginning this year that we’re going to comply with the (anti-nepotism) rules and we’re going to deal with those situations.”
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Those decisions for future hiring, however, do nothing about those whose family relationships currently are not in compliance with city rules.
According to the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance, a relative “is defined to include spouse, child, stepchild, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew or the spouse of any of them.” It also includes those related through adoption or common law.
An inquiry by The Telegraph found about 100 employees working in the city’s various departments are related to another person on the city’s payroll in some way.
Many of them involve relatives working in different departments or, at the least, not in supervisory positions where a relative would have say in another relative’s employment or promotion.
Information received by The Telegraph through open records requests suggest that the four employees, all members of the Warner Robins Police Department, are allowed to come in contact with each other professionally during work hours. That should never happen, according to the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance.
According to Sec. 18-3 (d) of the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance, relatives of supervisors in the police department can work for the same department, “provided that at no time shall such relatives work on the same shift at the same station.”
Maj. Harry Dennard, a 39-year employee of the department, oversees its administrative division and is based out of police headquarters at 800 S. Young Ave. His son-in-law, Lt. Craig Clifton, has worked for the department since 1996. Outside of the fact that they work in the same building, their working relationship is acceptable, said Warner Robins Human Resources Manager Bryan Fobbus.
“Maj. Dennard doesn’t supervise (Clifton),” Fobbus said.
But he does supervise.
According to Sec. 18-3 (d)(1) of the ordinance: “Relatives of employees in positions that carry any degree of supervision shall not be employed anywhere in the department in which the supervisor works, but may be employed in other departments of the city.”
There is nothing on the books for handling their relationship, which happened subsequent to their employment with the city. For those who get married to each other, the codes call for a transfer. If no transfer can be arranged for the lesser ranked employee, the code states, he or she would be terminated.
But, city officials said, no one is losing their job. Not yet, anyway.
Fobbus said Dennard is retiring at the end of the year, so officials have decided to allow the unlawful working relationship to continue until then.
Police spokeswoman Tabitha Pugh is in a similar predicament, given that her father, Capt. Scott McSwain, works out of the same police department building. Their hours also overlap.
But neither is planning a retirement any time soon. Pugh, 25, took her job as police department spokeswoman last year, after working for the police department as a front-desk clerk. McSwain, 49, has been working for the department since 1988.
Action required by policy
Once an employee is hired in the city, officials said the onus is on the department heads to ensure all the city’s rules and regulations are followed. Once a conflict arises, it is supposed to be immediately handled, before the violation ever occurs.
Sec. 18-3 (h)(2) of the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance states that department directors and supervisors shall transfer any relative working for the city after the effective date of the ordinance to a different division or section so as to avoid any direct supervision and shall not participate in any personnel actions involving a relative.
The policy became effective on March 18, 1985.
“This has all been discussed,” Fobbus said. “We’re going to deal with those situations (violating the ordinance).”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.