WARNER ROBINS — The number of Warner Robins city employees whose working relationships violate the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance is apparently more than city officials originally stated.
An e-mail between city officials in February put the number of police department employees working in violation of the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance at 12. Late last month, officials stated only the relationships of four employees in the department were of concern.
Friday, the relationship of two more police department employees was added to the list.
No personnel changes have been made, so how the number decreased is anyone’s guess.
Human Resource Manager Bryan Fobbus said ensuring that violations don’t take place after individuals are hired is out of his purview.
“It’s up to the department directors to figure out how to operate within (city) guidelines,” he said.
E-mails tell part of the story
City officials began the process earlier this year to weed through familial relationships of city employees that could conflict with the city’s anti-nepotism policy.
Fobbus sent out an e-mail in January asking the city’s department heads to forward him a list of employees in their departments who were related to each other. A copy of the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance was also sent to department heads and members of the city council.
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.
On Feb. 24, Fobbus detailed his findings to Mayor Chuck Shaheen.
“I wanted to let you know I have found six (sic) situations (of the 17) in the police department that pose a conflict with the nepotism policy,” he told Shaheen via e-mail. “I will discuss with Chief (Brett) Evans and let you know what we come up with.”
The mayor thanked Fobbus for the report. No other e-mails were found that spoke to a resolution.
Evans said he was not allowed to speak about the situation when reached by phone Friday.
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 not in supervisory positions where a relative would have say in employment or promotion.
But the four individuals mentioned by city officials last month violate a portion of the ordinance that specifically says they can work in the same department as long as they don’t work the same hours, or reside in the same building.
Both events occur in both cases.
One case involves Maj. Harry Dennard, a 39-year employee of the department and his son-in-law, Lt. Craig Clifton, who has worked for the department since 1996. Both are supervisors, and both work out of police headquarters at 800 S. Young Ave.
The other case involves Capt. Scott McSwain, a 22-year veteran of the police department, and his daughter, Public Information Officer Tabitha Pugh. They also work out of police headquarters and their time on duty overlaps.
The third case involves Capt. John Lanneau and Administrative Operations Manager Melanie Byer, who are related by marriage. City Attorney Jim Elliott added their relationship to the list Friday. He did not say how it posed a conflict.
All still work together, though city rules dictate changes should occur to keep the city from violating its own rules.
Every so often, the anti-nepotism policy has been changed to allow more of the family ties seen throughout the city.
At one point, no relatives of supervisors were allowed to work in the same department. That changed in the mid-90s when a provision was added to the policy allowing it to happen in the police and fire departments, so long as the relatives were not under another relative’s supervision.
The city has even dealt with lawsuits on the matter. Brenda Parks-Mathern, now a captain with the city’s animal control division, served as a plaintiff in a case in which she and her then-fiance, A.J. Mathern, postponed their marriage because the relationship would put them in violation with the city’s anti-nepotism rules. The couple eventually married, after a change to the policy allowed the two to continue working for the department as long as neither supervised the other.
There has been no talk of the other employees who posed conflict with the anti-nepotism policy. According to the list of related employees compiled by the city, there are several familial relationships involving 29 people who work for the police department. Some of them overlap, including more than two people. There are brothers, a mother and daughter, a father and his two sons and a husband and wife, among the other relationships.
Officials did not return calls as to which of the other relationships were on the list in February when it was originally compiled.
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.