Friday, June 25, 2004

Bill eases nepotism rules

Limited hiring of public officials'
relatives would be allowed

The City Council is considering relaxing rules against nepotism.

The Council's Executive Matters Committee deferred a resolution yesterday that would allow councilmembers -- and other officers in the legislative branch -- to hire the relative of any public official, including other councilmembers.

The rules prevent members and officers of the legislative branch from hiring their own relatives, their domestic partner or the relatives of their domestic partner, or the relatives of other public officials.

The rules also apply to the city clerk and the director of the Office of Council Services. The measure also proposes including the city auditor.

The Council put the rules into effect after former City Councilman Andy Mirikitani was criticized in 1995 for hiring the son of his then-girlfriend, all of whom lived in the same household.

Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, who drafted the resolution, said the measure came about after he and Councilwoman Barbara Marshall reviewed Council policies.

"This is something that we thought may need to be adjusted," Dela Cruz said. "We can see not hiring our own relatives for our own offices, but if any of you had a relative that I thought was qualified and it wasn't because of you, that would be the best interest of our constituents to have the best person serving our districts."

Marshall said that it is "overkill" not to allow a councilmember or officers from hiring each other's relatives.

"Personally, if I had my druthers, I think this rule is unnecessary," she said. "I look at the rest of the world, the state, the federal government, I see that no such similar rule exists."

But critics of the proposal said that softening the rules will do more harm to the image of the Council.

"There's a public perception that City Hall is dishonest, that this place is crooked and corrupt," said Councilman Charles Djou. "The last thing we should be doing is loosening up the anti-nepotism rules here at City Hall."

Councilman Gary Okino said he agreed with Djou and that sometimes rules are needed to remind people that favoritism should not be allowed. "We have anti-nepotism rules for a purpose, and we did this on the Council for a purpose because the abuse did occur. That doesn't mean it can't occur again in the future."

Djou said the rule change also is not needed because no one has made a case yet that the rule is preventing someone from being hired.

Dela Cruz was asked after the meeting if there was a qualified candidate who is prevented from being hired because of the rules, and he replied, "None that I'm aware of."

Although the proposal was deferred yesterday, Committee Chairman Romy Cachola said it could be revisited.


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