Burbank finalizes more restrictive nepotism policy

After years of discussions and months of revisions, Burbank officials have made final a set of strict changes to the city’s nepotism policy.

Designed to eliminate favoritism and improve morale, the policy now prohibits the hiring of relatives of any and all department heads, in addition to relatives of the City Council, city manager, assistant city manager and management services director.

Division heads — including those filling assistant director and deputy director roles — also cannot hire family members for their departments.

“What we tried to do is make the policy as restrictive as possible, but one also that was legally defensible,” said Interim City Manager Ken Pulskamp, who made the changes. “Over the years, the city of Burbank has had quite a few issues that have dealt with nepotism, and so the city felt it was important to have a strong policy.”

Additionally, any pair of employees that are dating — which the policy defines as having “frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional or sexual involvement for a time period greater than 30 days” — cannot be in the same chain of command, according to the new policy.

The policy previously prohibited employees from dating their direct supervisors.

Councilman David Gordon worried that including the word “frequent” in the dating definition made it vague and unenforceable.

But the policy targets “those relationships with the greatest opportunity to cause damage, which are ongoing, longer-term relationships,” said interim Management Services Director Betsy Dolan.

“We don’t want to be the dating police,” Pulskamp said. “But once it becomes a real relationship, then we recognize that there is a problem.”

In that case, it would be possible to rearrange the reporting structure so the employees are not longer in the same chain of command, Dolan said.

-- Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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