October 2017, Vol. 1

Nepotism and its impact on district hiring

by Karen Dooley

The practice of nepotism has always been an issue in school districts across the country, and it’s important for human resources administrators to understand the details of what is and what isn’t acceptable by law.

Texas Gov’t Code §573.002 and §573.041 state an individual who is related to a public official by blood (consanguinity) within the third degree or by marriage (affinity) within the second degree cannot be hired in a school district. In school districts, the term “public official” includes board members and, in some circumstances, the superintendent.

Policy DC (LOCAL) identifies hiring authority within a school district. In cases where the board delegates final hiring authority to the superintendent for certain positions, the superintendent also is considered a public official and his or her relatives can’t be hired. In these circumstances, HR must pay attention to the size of the county in which the district is wholly located or whose largest part is located. If the population of the county is 35,000 or more, the board also remains subject to the nepotism prohibition with respect to all district employees. If the population is less than 35,000, the board is released from the nepotism prohibition for staff delegated for hiring to the superintendent.

Consanguinity

Who would be considered related to a public official by blood (consanguinity) within the first to third degree? First degree is pretty simple: it includes the public official’s child or parent. Second degree includes a public official’s:
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Sibling
Finally, third degree includes the public official’s:
  • Great grandparent
  • Great grandchild
  • Aunt
  • Uncle
  • Niece
  • Nephew
There is no distinction under the nepotism statute between half-blood and full-blood relations. Thus, half-blood relationships fall within the same degree as those of the full-blood.

Affinity

Who would be considered related to a public official by marriage (affinity) within the first and second degree? First degree would include the public official’s stepparent, son or daughter in-law, stepchild, or parent in-law. The public official’s grandparent’s spouse, grandchild’s spouse, sibling’s spouse, spouse’s grandparent, spouse’s grandchild, or spouse’s siblings would be a second degree relationship by affinity.

So, can an affinity relationship end because of a divorce? The ending of a marriage by divorce or death of a spouse ends relationships of affinity created by that marriage unless a child of the marriage is living, in which case the marriage is considered to continue as long as a child of that marriage lives and only until the youngest child in the marriage reaches the age of 21. Charts illustrating the various family relationships are available in the HR Library topic, Employment Laws.

Exceptions

Employment of a public official’s relative is allowed in the following circumstances:
  • As a substitute teacher
  • As a bus driver if the district is located wholly in, or whose largest part is located in, a county with a population of less than 35,000 according to the most recent federal census
  • Continuous employment if the individual was employed in the position before the election or appointment of the related public official. Prior employment must be continuous for at least 30 days, if the public official is appointed; or six months, if the public official is elected (Tex. Gov’t Code §573.062(a)).
If any of these exceptions apply, the public official who is related to the employee shall not participate in any deliberation or vote on the appointment, reappointment, employment, reemployment, change in status, compensation, or dismissal of the employee, if such action applies only to the employee and is not action taken regarding a bona fide class or category of employee (Tex. Gov’t Code §573.062(b)).