Gordon wants stricter nepotism rules

Guidelines recently enacted to curb nepotism and dating in the workplace, improve morale and eliminate bias or favoritism among city workers and supervisors don't go far enough, one councilman says.

The guidelines, drafted by city officials and commissioners over the course of a year, were approved by the Civil Service Board in July.

The fact that the guidelines aren't part of the city's municipal code doesn't sit well with Councilman David Gordon, who argued that the policy shouldn't be altered on a whim.

“This should be put in the municipal code,” he said. “A statement should be made — certain types of conduct are not going to be acceptable in a business environment.”

City officials surveyed best practices in other cities and professional organizations in developing Burbank's nepotism and dating policies, a process City Manager Mike Flad said was “overdue.”

“When you look at cities' nepotism policies, it's a spectrum of ones that are very tough and ones that are nonexistent,” Flad said. “We've been on the nonexistent end.”

Slated to review the policies at its Tuesday meeting, the City Council postponed the item — after a brief discussion at 1 a.m. Wednesday — to allow for a more robust discussion with public participation.

According to the policy, city employees who are dating or related to someone applying for a city position must be removed from the recruitment and selection process. Applicants for a position also must disclose whether they're related to someone on staff.

In addition, relatives or couples may not supervise each other or be in the same chain of command. They are, however, allowed to work in the same department if they are co-workers with the same levels of authority.

Dating isn't prohibited, but if a senior official begins dating an employee in their chain of command, they must report the relationship to Management Services Director Justin Hess within 30 days. In the policy, the city reserves the right to fire couples if it's not feasible to separate them from the same chain of command.

The city can also choose not to hire or promote someone if it would violate the policy.

Gordon noted that when city officials date, it can potentially become costly for the city.

“It can involve sexual harassment claims against the city, which can be really hard to defend,” he said.

The rules are stricter for city officials at the top. No relatives of the city manager, executives in the city manager's office, management service director or City Council members — while they're serving in those capacities — are allowed to work for the city. Relatives can be hired after city employees have completed their service to the city, according to the policy.

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter @atchek.


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