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City to put the brakes on nepotism

Saying the honor system in Burbank wasn’t enough, Civil Service commissioners this week continued crafting an anti-nepotism policy to codify hiring and other workplace rules in a city where inter-employee relationships abound.

Burbank, unlike neighboring Glendale, has yet to institute a policy on hiring relatives and dating, which critics contend leads to biased appointments instead of hiring the most qualified candidate.

The draft policy would strengthen existing rules prohibiting employees from supervising another employee who is a relative. The current prohibitions are part of union agreements, which some commissioners said did not go far enough.

Zizette Mullins, a 29-year Burbank resident who was appointed to the board last summer, said it was important to keep transparency and perception in mind, even if no wrong-doing was taking place.


“The city has an honor system, and now it would have something in place and could hold employees accountable to it,” Mullins said. “I think perception at times becomes the reality.”

City officials did not immediately have figures for the number of employees who were relatives of existing or former employees, but Mullins said it was commonplace.

“There are quite a bit of employees who have relatives or through a marriage or second marriage or dating,” she said.

Mullins said the Civil Service Board was working to make sure the system works for the entire community and those applying for city jobs from the outside.


“Again, it’s fine to have relatives, as long as we know there is a system and human resources is aware of who is working under who,” Mullins said.

At the board meeting Wednesday, Management Services Director Judie Wilke insisted most employees were already recusing themselves when potential conflicts of interest arose, using herself as an example when it comes to labor negotiations with the union representing Burbank Water and Power employees.

Her husband, Thomas Wilke, works for the utility.

Civil Service Board member Nathan Schlossman said a provision in some memorandums of understanding for employees states managers may not hire relatives, but said the policy is not enforced, and is ambiguous and discretionary.


FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Schlossman as stating City Manager Mike Flad has relatives working for the city. It was also amended to accurately reflect his statments that a provision in some employee contracts states that managers may decline to hire a relative of an existing employee, not that they don’t directly supervise relatives.

“It’s not enough,” he said after the meeting. “We are trying to ensure the integrity of the civil service system.”

Schlossman pointed out that City Manager Mike Flad’s ex-wife and relatives of his predecessor, Mary Alvord, are or at one point have worked for the city and said it was important to understand the influence of staff members.


Civil Service Board member Matt Doyle, who is human resources director for the city of Glendale, expressed hesitation with prohibiting all department heads from hiring their relatives.

“It’s a little draconian to say no relatives will work for the city if you’re an executive,” Doyle said, but said he understood that executives might face particular pressure to hire family members.

But Schlossman said he didn’t think it was overstepping to prohibit 13 or 14 department heads from having relatives work in a city that employs about 1,500 people.

“I know it will result in informal arrangements — it’s just human nature,” Schlossman said. “It will happen, it does happen, in this city.”