Grand County commissioners to address nepotism in workshop
The Grand County Board of Commissioners will discuss perceived nepotism within county government at a policy workshop on April 6.
The board scheduled the discussion at its March 24 meeting after a citizen raised the issue during the public comment section of the meeting.
“The problem is there is perceived and probably is nepotism going on in this county, and we do need to address that,” said Eden Recor. “We do need to put it into a policy and probably schedule it at one of your policy meetings, but a lot of people are thinking that if you’re going to have nepotism, you’ve got to nip it in the bud, or if it’s already in place there needs to be something to resolve that fairly quickly.”
Commissioner Merritt Linke said the object of the April 6 workshop would be “to clearly define what nepotism is” and develop a policy to address it.
The issue of nepotism generated much discussion at a luncheon on Friday, March 20, held by the High Country Conservatives.
During the luncheon, HCC Chairman Frank Watts distributed a “proposed Grand County policy” that would bar commissioners and managers from hiring relatives for full-time and part-time positions over 15 hours per week “into their chain of authority.
“Any existing relatives in the same chain of authority meeting these criteria will be allowed to exist for no more than two months from the date of approval of this policy. One or the other of those relatives must transfer, resign or be terminated.”
The document included a definition from Merriam-Webster that defines nepotism as “the unfair practice by a powerful person of giving jobs and other favors to relatives.”
During the meeting, which was attended by county commissioners Kris Manguso and James Newberry as well as local Democrats, there was some debate over whether terminating current employees would be a fair way to address the issue.
Others posited that at least some employees hired by relatives were actually the most qualified applicants for the position.
The discussions primarily focused on County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, though participants said they knew of other instances of perceived nepotism in the county.
At least two of Curran’s relatives or in-laws are in leadership roles in county departments.
During the commissioners meeting, Curran lashed out at what she said she believed was a campaign to specifically target her family.
“I would just ask, remember when you’re talking about this, it isn’t just me and it isn’t just my family, and I’m tired of hearing just my name and my family’s name,” Curran said. “I saw the emails before so I’m just saying that it needs to be fair and across the board and not just me, or I’m going to start looking for how I protect myself and my family.”
Curran specifically mentioned seeing emails from Watts that referred only to her family.
During the commissioners meeting, Newberry paraphrased the definition of nepotism from Watts’s document as “an unfair advantage,” which Linke said he agreed should be addressed.
“Friends, family, anyone that’s getting an unfair advantage by a relationship with some other employee, that should be addressed,” he said.
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Grand County has not seen any new deaths due to COVID-19 in the last week, and the reported number of deaths with COVID has gone down by one.