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Policy addition approved

WINTON – Hertford County local government’s newest addition to its personnel policy is now officially on the books, but not without another long round of debate and one dissenting vote.

On its required second reading, the county’s Board of Commissioners approved the policy amendment – entitled Limitation on Employment of Relatives – at their regularly scheduled meeting here Monday night. That approval, by a 4-1 vote, came after a closed session that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

The proposed amendment adds a third paragraph to Section II.9 of the county’s personnel policy which reads as follows:

“An immediate family member of a sitting County Commissioner shall not serve in any position as an employee of Hertford County in any capacity during the term of a sitting County Commissioner; provided however, this policy does not apply to any employee of Hertford County at the time of enactment of this policy, unless such employee leaves employment and then reapplies. This policy does apply to an individual who is employed by Hertford County, and whose immediate family member is then elected in the future as a County Commissioner; an employee whose immediate family member is elected would be required to resign prior to the newly elected Commissioner taking office.”

The existing portion of Section II.9 outlines the definition of an immediate family member as a spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, child, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandchild, step and/or adopted parents or children.

The commissioners, by a 4-0 vote, approved the same measure at its first reading back on Feb. 18. Commissioner Bill Mitchell, whose wife Monique is the county’s Information Technology (IT) Director, missed that meeting due to medical reasons. He cast the only dissenting vote at this past Monday’s meeting, despite the fact that his wife is not impacted by this new policy because she was hired long before its implementation (June 1, 2017).

“My vote did not have anything to do with me personally or my wife,” Mitchell said on Tuesday. “I voted the way I did because I feel we live and work in an area where job opportunities are scarce, so why do we need limit the talent pool? We need to recruit and hire the best talent out there, no matter who they are, who they’re related to, to help us better serve our citizens.”

Commissioner Mitchell added that the county’s structured interview process works well.

“There are current layers in place between the person who may potentially fill an open position on the county staff and us (the commissioners),” he noted. “The commissioners do not directly supervise the staff. That is left to the department heads and our county manager.”

In an interview following the Feb. 18, Commission Chairman Ronald Gatling said the policy is a good idea as it removes derails public perception of cronyism within the ranks of Hertford County local government.

“This new policy is not aimed at any particular individual,” Gatling noted. “It’s just a good policy to have in place.”

The now approved amendment is now added as a third paragraph to the existing policy of Section II.9. The first two paragraphs are:

Two (2) members of an immediate family shall not be employed in the same administrative department, except by special permission of the Board of County Commissioners.

However, at no time shall two (2) members of an immediate family be employed in county government in which one employee has direct supervision over the other.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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