Hobbs News Sun

City hesitant to OK hiring of officials’ relatives

Denise Marquez

NEWS-SUN

The Hobbs City Commission was hesitant to approve the publication of an ordinance amendment that would allow certain relatives of the city commission and city manager to be hired as seasonal or temporary employees by the city.

During Monday’s city commission meeting, the Hobbs commission voted 5-2 for the publication of an ordinance that would amend a city rule related to nepotism. Commissioners Marshall Newman and Garry Buie voted against the publication.

The city ordinance to be amended currently prohibits relatives of city commissioners, the mayor and the city manager from employment with the city. That prohibits those city officials’ spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, great-grandparents, great-grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, that are related by blood or marriage, from being hired to city jobs.

The proposed amendment will allow those in the above list to work as seasonal or temporary workers, except children, grandchildren and siblings of commissioners, the mayor and the city manager.

The current ordinance also prohibits a person from being hired by the city if the position is under the direct supervision of the departmental chair of command of a relative. The proposed amendment would limit the prohibition of those department heads relative to seasonal and temporary employees, as long as the employee is not supervised by their family member.

“We are trying to amend these seasonal and temporary positions only,” said Nicholas Goulet, Human Resources director. “The reason that we’re trying to do that is we have around 155 of those folks that we typically hire — most of them are young people, most of them are in our summer seasonal program — out of those, we had 170 to choose from last year. What the goal is we want to increase the pool. We want to reduce the relationship of the people that we wish to hire. We’d like to change it to certain relatives may be appointed to seasonal or temporary employment.”

Commissioner Don Gerth has concerns with opening up the hiring pool to city officials’ family members, which he said could reduce the chances of non-family members of city commissioners and the city manager of getting a city job.

“If you have 170 apply and you have 155 (positions) it almost guarantees you hire some (city officials’ relatives) and some of them (that aren’t relatives) are going to get left out and look back and say, ‘You hired so and so because he’s related to mayor Cobb and I worked here last year,’” Gerth said.

Buie shared similar concerns as Gerth and said amending the ordinance may cause problems between city department heads.

“You hire somebody and I get the phone call and they (a department supervisor) say they hired him, before they hired mine,” Buie said. “This is going to happen. My opinion is this is a bad idea.”

Doug McDaniel, Hobbs Parks & Recreation director, said as the ordinance sits now hampers the pool of applicants the city can choose from to hire. A few years ago, a relative of Crystal Mullins, former city commissioner, applied for a City of Hobbs seasonal position but was not hired due to his relation with Mullins.

“Prior to Commissioner Mullins leaving a relative of hers, a young man, wanted to work in the summer sports program as one of our sports instructors,” McDaniel said. “He was a great young man and we could not hire him because of the policy currently in place.”

Goulet said the number of employees needed for those seasonal and temporary jobs will increase on the CORE opens in about a year.

“Not necessarily are we worried about it in our current summer programs but especially as we turn the corner and we go into the CORE facility we’re going to be hiring a much greater amount of seasonals at that point,” Goulet said. “Our 155 could be up to 230 to 240.”

Mayor Sam Cobb, asked the commission to vote for the publication of the ordinance and give the public the opportunity to voice its opinion on the change.

“I would ask to approve the publication and I would like for the commission, including myself to engage the community about how they feel about  it and then come back in 30 days and vote it up or down,” Cobb said.

Denise Marquez can be reached at 391-5427 or by email..