As nepotism at city hall was discussed by council at its Dec. 11 meeting, there were many references to the city’s policy in regard to the hiring of relatives which was put into play in 1982 and revised slightly in 2011.
But no one there that night gave us the nuts and bolts of that policy and the media didn’t bother to include the information in their stories.
Council doing so would have given us all a better perspective as we followed debate on the resolution presented by Councillors Ozzie Grandinetti and Matthew Shoemaker which called for staff to once yearly report to council on how many of the city’s employees across all departments are related to one another.
The councillors in their resolution said they were not looking for the names of those employees, but simply the numbers and percentages for council’s information.
The resolution noted that a perception exists locally that family members of existing staff are given preference for city positions and this negatively affects the trust of residents in the operations of the city.
It said a policy already exists that regulates nepotism in the city’s hiring practices and full transparency of the facts is the best way to counter this perception.
This would have been the time to present the policy, as no one in attendance seemed to have a handle on it.
In any event, the resolution failed by an 8-3 vote.
I was of two minds about it.
I know the perception is out there that relatives are given preference and I would have liked to have seen the matter addressed a little more deeper than what occurred at council, where the majority simply sloughed it off.
I don’t see anything wrong with doing something to combat the perception, especially since all that the two councillors were asking for was numbers, not names.
And after all, beyond perception, there is the fact that there are quite a few people working for the city who are related, some in the same department. Council members may not know this or may not want to know this, but most staff members probably do.
In regard to the resolution, I thought it was especially necessary for the Hiring-of-Relatives policy to be trotted out when Mayor Christian Provenzano sought clarification of what constitutes a relative.
He asked if in-laws are considered relatives? Spouses? First cousins?
The answers to those questions are contained in the policy that is on the books. It reads:
“Purpose: This policy provides guidelines for the hiring of relatives within The Corporation of the City of Sault Ste. Marie. It is intended to eliminate any potential for conflict of interest or the perception of bias in the selection process. The policy is designed to avoid direct reporting relationships whereby one relative has direct authority to administer monetary gain, conduct performance evaluations, recommend for hire or promotion or administer discipline to another relative.
“Relative is defined as:
“Spouse: Person to whom the employee is legally married or is in a common-law relationship. “Child: Natural, adopted and stepchildren.
“Parent: Includes father, mother, stepfather, stepmother.
“Sibling: Brother or Sister includes half brother and half sister.
“In-laws: Father/Mother in-law, Sister/Brother in-law, Son-in-law, Daughter-in-law.
“Supervision shall be defined as having formal direct responsibility for the day-to-day supervision of relatives.
The Corporation of The City of Sault Ste. Marie shall not hire, transfer, promote or assign an individual to a department/division, which will result in the individual being supervised by a member of senior staff related to them. Senior staff refers to a department head, division head and deputy.
“No person shall participate directly in a selection process or appointment involving a relative. “Notwithstanding the above, no persons shall be hired and assigned to an area where an employee related to them would supervise them. This also applies to Student employees.
“If the skill and qualifications required for a position or if organizational or collective agreement provisions necessitate departure from these guidelines, council will be advised of the circumstances.”
Although I don’t see anything wrong with the resolution presented by Grandinetti and Shoemaker, I also believe the present policy does a pretty good job of nailing things down.
It stops short of declaring that two people who are closely related cannot be hired by the city, as well it should.
It would be patently unfair to allow only one member of a family to be employed by the city.
I don’t think the city is any different from many corporations in hiring relatives as they take into consideration the work ethic of family members already there. If those persons are doing a fine job, it is only natural that those doing the hiring would believe that their relatives would also do a fine job.
Will there be mistakes? Sure. I can attest to that from personal experience.
My father years ago got me a job in the Dryden Paper Company, the company taking me on based on his work ethic and qualifications as a blacksmith. I wasn’t afraid of work, so that part came off OK. But the company got shortchanged in the area of quality as I was a klutz when it came to working with my hands.
I gather there are quite a few sons and daughters of city employees hired as summer students by the city. Apparently at one time the city had to pay the basic rate for a position to summer students but when the unions agreed that could be at minimum wage, the hiring rate was doubled.
There seemed to be some question at council as to how to determine which employees were related.
“Staff would have to take all the employees in the city and figure out a system where retroactively they can determine who has relations with another employee,” the mayor said. “That is what you want staff to do?” he asked Grandinetti and Shoemaker.
I would suggest that finding out would not be that hard, that the question could be simply put to department heads. Most of them would know or could easily find out from subordinates.
If I can find out that there are related people at city hall and even within departments, surely council can. Something like one higher-up having a husband working there is hardly a secret.
Shoemaker said he thought it was important to show the community what percentage of folks here are related to one another, that this figure would probably be much lower than people presume it is.
I really don’t see anything wrong with doing that.