County nepotism policy relaxed in 2010

Grays Harbor County commissioners amended the county’s policy on nepotism in 2010 and under the new policy, Commissioner Terry Willis doesn’t seem to have violated county rules when she hired her granddaughter for a summer jobs program in the county’s Road Department earlier this year.

For 15 years, the county had a policy that forbid an employee’s relative from being hired “where one of the parties would have authority or practical power to supervise, appoint, remove or discipline the other,” according to a copy of the old policy. The same policy also held that employees’ relatives would not be employed by the county “where other circumstances might lead to potential conflict among the parties or conflict between the interest of one or both parties and the best interests of the county.”

On April 26, 2010, the county commissioners, including Willis, approved a resolution revising the policy.

The new policy relaxes the old rules and specifically states that “employees and applicants for employment shall not be denied employment or advancement opportunities because of their status as a family or household member of another employee.”

The policy also clearly states that “no person shall be employed, promoted or transferred to a permanent position in the county where they would be the immediate supervisor of or receive direct supervision” from a relative or member of the household. The policy specifically mentions that grandparents should not be the immediate supervisor of their grandchild. However, although Willis hired her granddaughter, she is not her direct supervisor.

Willis hired her granddaughter earlier this year after personally interviewing her among a pool of about 10 applicants, she said. Two other applicants were also chosen by Willis and she said she did not know either of them beforehand. Commissioner Mike Wilson picked three applicants and Commissioner Herb Welch two. Wilson and Welch said they didn’t know that Willis had hired her granddaughter.

“If I had kicked my granddaughter out and told her I wasn’t going to take her application, I would have been just as discriminatory because she was related to me,” Willis told The Daily World. “It works both ways. If I had held it against an employee’s son because his dad works here, how wrong would that have been? … I was not going to hold it against her because she’s related to me,” she added. “I’m related to a lot of people in Grays Harbor County.”

The nepotism policy revision was not done during an afternoon regular meeting of the commissioners, but during a morning meeting and approved by Commissioners Willis, Mike Wilson and Al Carter. The new policy was one of three approved at the same time, including new policies about county sexual harassment and revising the county’s policy for employees’ Family and Medical Leave and Family Care Act.