Board working on nepotism policy

A new city policy could prohibit family members of City Council members and the city manager from being hired — a move that one civil service commissioner said would be a “step toward slowly changing the culture in Burbank.”

The draft policy, which is still being fine-tuned by the Civil Service Board, could also extend to department chiefs, although that provision has yet to find consensus.

Commissioners plan to send the draft nepotism policy to the City Council this summer. The board’s chairman, Nathan Schlossman, said there are familial employee relationships within every city department.

The current policy is negotiated individually with the city’s employee labor organizations, but generally prohibits relatives from directly supervising relatives. Officials must also consider safety, security or morale issues that may arise out of hiring a family member.

The proposed policy will be circulated among employee bargaining groups before going to the City Council.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Civil Service Board member Matt Doyle, who also serves as Glendale’s director of human resources. “It’s not as strong as the policy in Glendale, but it’s a step toward slowly changing the culture in Burbank.”

In Glendale, managers are prohibited from being involved in hiring decisions or overseeing family members in the workplace.

The proposed policy changes would not impact existing Burbank employees.

The intent of the proposed changes is to balance the need to prevent the appearance of favoritism with the rights of existing employees “who had no control and were not responsible for their relatives running for [City] Council.” according to a city report.

The same would hold true for potential family members of future city managers. No relatives of the man who currently holds that title, Mike Flad, are on the city’s payroll.

“This was a major compromise on the board,” Doyle said. “We didn’t want to harm anyone currently employed with the city.”

A final draft of the board’s proposal is expected to come out of a June 1 meeting, officials said.

But commissioners may meet some resistance in altering the hiring and management policy, especially among those who feel the changes may keep out qualified employees.

“I don’t want to close the door to any family members,” said Mayor Jess Talamantes, a firefighter with the city for more than 30 years. “You go through a testing process and you have to prove yourself. If you’re not worthy, you’re not going to be ranked high enough to be offered the position.”

Relatives of employees are often held to an even higher standard than other applicants, he added.

“Shame on me, I guess, because I decided to run for City Council, and then my children cannot work where their dad worked and the city he now represents,” Talamantes said.

Had the policy been in effect several years ago, former Mayor Anja Reinke’s daughter would not have been allowed to be considered for her current position in the management services department.

“Some of these people that are being very vocal towards the nepotism policy I don’t think get the family concept in the city of Burbank,” Talamantes said.

 
 

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