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Manatee School Board Passes Rules for Curbing Nepotism, Fraternization Within District

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BRADENTON – At Monday's meeting, the Manatee School Board unanimously enacted two policy changes that seek to control nepotism and fraternization and their resulting complications after holding public hearings that bore no opposition from citizens. 

In order to attempt to curb the favoritism that can result from employees in unique relationships working closely together, the two policies take separate approaches.

Staff Attorney Scott Martin, speaking before the Board, said the new nepotism rules are intended "to address the circumstances of when familial relations might impact personnel decisions or contracts within the District."

Those new rules take special exception to the actions that district employees in positions of power can take with regard to the careers of relatives. For example, one of the policy's procedures prohibit any district employee (including Board members and officers) from supervising, hiring, appointing, or "directly influencing the supervision, hiring, or appointment," of a relative.

The fraternization policy goes a step further, explicitly prohibiting Board members, officers, or employees from "engaging in or maintaining a romantic or sexual relationship with any employee they manage, supervise, direct, or control, or with any employee over whom the exercise the authority to (sic)," and that violation of that rule would give just cause for discipline for both involved employees, "up to and including termination of one or both employees."

With regards to the nepotism policy, Board Member David Miner asked Martin if someone that would normally be eligible to sell certain goods or services to the District would be disqualified from doing so if a Board member or other employee in a position of power is a relative of theirs. Martin agreed, saying that such a situation would fall under Section 1-D of the policy. "That would necessarily constitute a violation of this policy," Martin said.

In a response that could roughly describe the approval of both policies, Miner responded, "It could be argued that this policy that we have is unfair to family members or board members ... I think in adopting this, we're taking a very strong statement saying, 'So what? We're just not going to allow...any possibility of favoritism.'" Martin agreed, saying that Miner's comments were a fair characterization of the new policy.


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