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Expect the questions

I was about 12 when my dad coached my soccer team. He was tougher on me than any of my teammates – or so I thought.

He designated me left fullback – not a glamorous position. But then again, I wasn't a good player.

During practice, I overheard one of my teammates saying my dad treated me better. Not true, I thought, but I said nothing.

That was my early brush with the issue of nepotism, although I didn't know what that word meant back then.

The issue of family connections comes up every once in a while in the Sauk Valley. Just the other day, Dixon city commissioners questioned why the relatives of two part-time employees worked for the city.

Police Chief Danny Langloss, now considered the special assistant to the City Council, told them that part-timers can't work directly under the supervision of a relative. The city, he said, was complying with its policies.

Some people, including those in academia, have little problem with nepotism in government. They argue that people work harder for their family, benefitting taxpayers.

But government employees with family working for them should expect questions. We want hiring based on qualifications, not on family connections.

Last year, the Lee County Board rejected a proposed nepotism policy, with one member calling it a Chicago problem.

When I started covering Lee County zoning board meetings in 2011, I noticed zoning officer Chris Henkel's daughter, Alice, at his side. She's a very part-time clerk for the county; her only duty is taking the minutes of zoning board meetings. And she does a good job (which even zoning board critics have acknowledged).

The Henkel example is a very small one, as the clerk's job is only budgeted for $1,000 a year. But it never hurts to point out family relationships among government employees.

The Sterling, Coloma and Oregon park districts have notable examples of nepotism, as we documented a few months ago. Townships also are rife with family connections.

In small towns and big cities, nepotism sometimes occurs. The way to deal with it is openness. That's why I like the website openthebooks.com, which is the work of the nonprofit group, For the Good of Illinois. That site gives the salaries of full-time employees at government entities across the state.

Spend some time with this site. You can get information about the people working for us.

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 


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