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Nepotism Charge Brings Nasty Response From The Public

Thursday, Jul. 7, 2011

Summer jobs are hard to come by, so you can imagine the response from the public when it was revealed that the mayor of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania hired his daughter and niece to work at city hall this summer.

Mayor Tom Leighton saw nothing wrong with the hires, which had been recommended by the city’s human relations manager. But the positions had not been posted—so the general public didn’t know about them- and the mayor signed the paperwork.

When I spoke with the reporter covering the story for  the Citizen’s Voice, the first thing that came to mind was nepotism, a violation of ethics laws. The mayor was asked if he thought the decision was a violation of the state Ethics Act. “Not that I’m aware of, I don’t think.”

The reader comments in the article “Leighton rubber stamped family jobs,” decried the mayor’s actions and expressed concern that there might be other problems at city hall. “It’s now the time to look into other shady deals that come out of this mayor’s office,” wrote one reader. Another vowed to mail a complaint to the State Ethics Commission.

This type of negative response is only one of the consequences of nepotism, broadly defined as showing favoritism to members of the family. There are several other serious concerns:

• Fairness. Was the same opportunity given to all members of the public to apply for these positions? It looks like the mayor’s relatives had an advantage not offered to others.

• Competency. Favoritism undermines the confidence in the qualifications of the employee. In other words, was this person hired on the basis of ability and experience, or because of a family connection? Favoritism can also create tension among employees who may feel there is an unfair standard in performance reviews.

• Public trust. As the comments from the readers show, there is already skepticism about government employees, and nepotism only makes it worse.

To read more about favoritism and nepotism, including case studies, visit our Web site.

Tags: ethics codes, ethics violations, nepotism

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