Public hearing on nepotism met by citizen opposition

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By Natasha LaFayette

Despite opposition to proposed changes in LaFollette’s nepotism policy, the revisions passed when the mayor broke a tie vote.

 “I don’t know what the nepotism law would benefit and how it would benefit the citizens by allowing the hiring (of council and mayor relatives),” said Councilman Bob Fannon.

Fannon, who has vehemently spoke against the policy since it was first brought up, went on to state in his business the highest area of conflict is where immediate relatives are located under department heads.

Councilman Hansford Hatmaker spoke next, claiming the council does not hire all the employees because the department heads fill part- time positions.

“Let’s not be misled all the way through on this, its got some good points and some bad points,” said Hatmaker.

Fannon said 90- percent of the hiring is for full- time employees, which is done by the council.

Hatmaker and Fannon briefly exchanged thoughts on hiring, before Kitts posed his views on the policy.

“I think it’s a good policy,” said Kitts of the original policy. “Every city in this county has a nepotism policy. I think we are making a big mistake by removing this from our charter.”

Mayor Mike Stanfield asked if the audience had any comments about the ordinance and several people spoke against the new policy, which allows for the mayor and council to be exempt from the nepotism policy.

Former LaFollette Mayor Cliff Jennings spoke as the father of the law, stating he has never known it to hurt anyone. Jennings addressed each member of the council who was in favor of the new policy by asking how the policy will benefit the taxpayers of LaFollette.

Stanfield spoke first saying he had no relatives interested in applying for a position with the city. Jennings redirected the question toward Stanfield saying his reply did not answer the question.

“I don’t have any member of my family looking for a job with the city,” said Stanfield. “And if I did, if they were qualified they should have the job.”

Next the question was posed to Councilman Joe Bolinger.

Bolinger replied by saying there are many young people in the city who are driving long distances to find work. He said if there are available jobs in the city then they should be considered for those positions.

“I don’t have anybody in particular to hire out of my family either,” Bolinger added.

After the meeting, Bolinger commented Hatmaker was the first person to address changing the policy. Bolinger stated he had no intentions of hiring his family, but others on the council would have to be held accountable for their reasoning in wanting the change in the policy.

David Reynolds, president of People’s Bank of the South and lifelong LaFollette citizen, also addressed the council in opposition to the policy.

“I feel like we are going backwards in voting for this,” said Reynolds. “We need to be working for the good of the city and not be thinking who we can get for a job. We need to work forward and handle this like a city and not like a small town.”

Countering that statement Hatmaker asked Reynolds where he would be if the bank had a nepotism policy.

Reynolds attempted to differentiate between private businesses and public entities for Hatmaker. But Hatmaker continued focusing his comments toward Kitt’s position with the school system.

After Hatmaker finished speaking against those in opposition to the new policy, the public hearing came to a close.

Following the public hearing, the nepotism ordinance was approved in the third and final reading with Fannon and Kitts voting against the policy. Stanfield broke the tie by voting in favor of the ordinance.

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