The call to examine Greene County’s policy governing employment of family members opened up a new schism between Greene County lawmakers and a battle between the county Legislature and the department heads it oversees.
At issue is the May 18 provisional hiring of Matthew Seeley, son of Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley, by the sheriff’s department. In July, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said Matthew Seeley, according to current policy, could not be hired until his father retired, which is expected at the end of the year.
Matthew Seeley would also have to take the civil service exam Sept. 14 and, pending those results, he could be hired, but not by his father, Groden said.
“Matthew Seeley is employed as a provisional employee, pending his completion and successful scoring of a civil service exam,” Groden said Friday. “If he passes the exam and is reachable, meaning he must score in the top three spots, he will be appointed as a permanent employee. Provisional status is very common in governmental employment as civil service tests are only given infrequently and eligible lists have expiration dates.”
The proposal to revise the policy took some lawmakers by surprise and angered a few. And it pleased some, too.
As things now stand, the policy is under review to determine its legality, Groden said. When it’s all said and done, there could be small changes, big changes or no changes at all to the policy.
Important detailed questions still must be answered. Under what circumstances can the county deny employment to a job seeker? How does the county restrict it? Or should the county restrict it at all?
Policies such as this are written to protect the ethical conduct of government, prevent conflicts of interest and eliminate the perception of favoritism, which can be harmful to the smooth running of government departments.
In government, hiring should be based on skills, not on who you know or might be related to. Matthew Seeley graduated from the Police Academy and might be highly qualified for the job. But would it matter if his hiring was held off until his father left office? Waiting four months might have been the careful thing to do as some have suggested, but does the issue of parental connection go away when the father retires? This is also under review.
“Greene County will avoid the practice of appearance of favoritism in hiring and the assignment of employees. Therefore, an employee’s immediate relative will not be hired for or assigned to a position within the chain of command of the current employee or in the same work unit as the current employee,” according to the policy. A legal review will certainly tell the county where it stands, but the appearance of favoritism must be addressed to the satisfaction of all.