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Nepotism policy fails, personnel policy approved by court

By Staff, 03/14/18 10:04 AM


PRESCOTT – March’s meeting of the Nevada County Quorum Court was a busy one Tuesday evening.

The meeting began with good news as the court was informed the county had overpaid Smith-Doyle Construction and had $19,000 returned. According to Nevada County Treasurer Susie Key, the auditor called asking her to pull the jail financial records. A check showed a discrepancy as the construction company that build the new jail had been overpaid.

The company was contacted and paid the money back. The money, in turn, was used to pay off the loan of a vehicle for the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

The panel also wasted no time in approving the appropriation of $1,000 for the Imagination Library, a program started by the Dolly Parton Foundation to get books into the hands of children ages 0-5 and get them reading sooner. To date, around 200 children have been signed up to get a free book a month.

The issue had been tabled from the February meeting because auditors said a contract was required detailing exactly what the money would be used for. Key said the auditors approved the contract presented.

From there, the court discussed a personnel policy for the county. The discussion was broken down into two parts – nepotism and everything else. Justice of the Peace George Smith told the panel he’d gotten the information from the state as to what the policy should look like, and how meetings were held that included county employees and elected officials.

The nepotism portion of the proposed policy would grandfather in any relatives already working for the county, but would prohibit the hiring of them to work directly under a member of their family.

JP Willie Wilson said such a policy might not be good for the county as it’s run efficiently with nepotism in place. He suggested this be left to the individual departments, and talked about how the superintendent and principal of Prescott High School are brothers and there are no problems.

JP Ryan Harvey chimed in saying there could be a problem if everyone who applies for a job isn’t interviewed and a relative is hired. He suggested the court err on the side of the county’s attorney.

Smith pointed out during his time in the media, 80 percent of all embezzlement cases involved nepotism. “Perception is reality,” he said. “If a relative is hired, they’ll be treated differently.”

The question was raised if an attorney had been questioned about this. Smith said legally the county isn’t required to have a nepotism policy. At the end of the discussion, the proposal of a nepotism policy for the county failed.

However, there was little discussion on the rest of the personnel policy, which was approved as presented.

Discussion on whether or not to increase the amount the county gives to the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce followed, with Smith suggesting the county increase its contract with the Chamber in the amount of $5,000. He said the Chamber does a lot for both the city and county.

JP Bob Cummings agreed as to the work the Chamber does, but said there are other entities in financial need as well, adding the money needs to be spread around. He pointed out the Hamilton-Blakely Senior Adult Center and Nevada County Fair Association as examples, saying they also need help. He continued saying the court needs to be careful who it gives money to.

Harvey reminded the court the money wasn’t going to an individual and wouldn’t be used for salaries, but to be used for Chamber projects by its board of directors.

Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Chamber, said the money would go back to the community, adding she knows other organizations are in financial difficulties. She reminded the court the Chamber also works with most of these organizations, including the fair association, adding she wants to be able to provide more services for the community through the Chamber.

The court was reminded the City of Prescott budgets $20,000 a year to the Chamber, while the county’s contract was for $600.

JP Dennis Pruitt said other groups will come asking for money and it’ll be hard for the court to turn them down. In the end, though, the court approved increasing its contract with the Chamber to $5,000.

Eighth Judicial District North Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen told the court about the new district task force which combines law enforcement agencies from Hempstead and Nevada counties to work on a variety of crimes, not just drugs. She said the task force will have a SWAT team and work on major crimes as well as “street corner” crimes. The task force, she continued, will be funded with monies seized from drug dealers.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, told the court about the EDO’s new facebook page and how it will provide “one stop” shopping for listing job openings in the city and county.

The court approved an ordinance moving money into a special account for drug enforcement. Key said the auditors suggest setting it up so only the sheriff or his representative can have access to these funds. The money, she continued, has already been appropriated and will be used for the new task force.

A group from District 8 was on hand to discuss the road situation in the southern part of the county. It was pointed out NC 329 was in bad shape and is in dire need of attention, while a stop sign is needed where NC 119 intersects with NC 329 as some motorist tend to speed through it.

Nevada County Judge Mark Glass agreed to meet with the representatives and look at the road in question.