Nepotism ordinance passes, but not without comment

Larry Curling

The Caldwell County Fiscal Court on Wednesday approved the second reading of an amendment to a nepotism ordinance originally passed in 1994 and amended in 2005.

The approval makes the amended ordinance official.

The amendment to the ordinance states that no spouse, child, parent, sibling, spouse’s parent or sibling, children-in-law, grandparent, grandchild or individual claimed as a dependent for tax purposes of a county official will not be initially employed or appointed to a position in a county government agency in which that official has any direct or indirect responsibility to supervise, manage or control the work of the family member.

The amendment does not apply to those people who have served in the county for six months prior to that official taking office, nor does it apply to anyone hired before July 1, 2020.

There was some comment at the fiscal court meeting regarding the amended ordinance.

“I have never disputed you all’s right to do this,” County Court Clerk Toni Watson said. “If you believe in it, that’s what you ought to do.

“It was not done transparently. I do not think that the elected officials who the voters have entrusted these offices to were shown courtesy or respect, but it’s under your job title; it’s not under ours.”

Watson added that “there are things going to be coming down the road, and I hope that you all will give us a heads-up before they’re sprung.”

The fiscal court then voted 4-0 in favor of the amended ordinance. District 1 Magistrate Elbert Bennett was absent.

County Emergency Management Coordinator Joey McCaslin stated his concerns about the amended ordinance while giving his department report.

“This is a personal comment,” he said. “I think y’all made a mistake just a minute ago because we have open meetings, but nobody knew this nepotism was a problem coming up before it was presented at a fiscal court meeting.

“Where is the open discussion about it? Where were the county officials that are thinking about it? When were they asked what their input is? You all are sitting here, and you had the right as the five men who run the county and make the decisions, but you need to get a whole view of the whole thing, because you’re getting ready to make another decision that’s going to affect emergency services in this county, and you need to think long and hard before you move fire trucks to the ambulance office.”

Judge-Executive Larry Curling said that the lack of prior discussion was his fault as the county administrator.

Curling then explained that the Princeton Fire Department is buying a new fire truck without selling or eliminating one that it already has.

“So we don’t have room over here (at the fire department) for a fire truck,” he said. “And right now, we can’t afford to build an expensive building; we just can’t do it.”

District 2 Magistrate Jeff Boone said he spoke with Princeton Mayor Kota Young and found that two-thirds of the equipment at the fire department is county equipment.

“I started a discussion about doing something about fixing a place to move them, and the ambulance building situation came up,” he said. “We were talking about one vehicle then.

“I don’t know if we’ve got the money to build a building, but we’ve got too much invested in the equipment not to take care of it somewhere.”

No one else at the meeting had a comment regarding the ordinance.

The fiscal court meeting was held in the fiscal court meeting room after the last few meetings were held in the main courtroom. The meetings will go back to being held on Tuesdays, with the Aug. 11 meeting being held at 9 a.m.