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Blast from the Past: School Board Discusses Nepotism

Sometimes, even old editions prove timely. Back about this time in 1988 Trego School board found itself discussing nepotism, specifically a school board member with a parent as a substitute cook.

We mentioned nepotism briefly last week, when we discussed the upcoming school board election. The state laws on nepotism can be found here.

Trego school board trustees discussed nepotism at their regular meeting February 10. The question of nepotism arose between school board trustee Sam Chaney, and substitute cook Donnajo Chaney, Sam’s mother. Sam Chaney received letters concerning nepotism from Bob Stockton, Office of Public Instruction and Cindy Middag, LC superintendent. The board took no action. The question of nepotism was again addressed concerning Sam Chaney and Trego election judge Goldie Calvert, his mother-in-law. The opinion of Jim Lear, attorney for the Legislative Council, Secretary of State’s office was that it is not legal for the Board of Trustees to appoint a relative to an election board because of the nepotism law. By doing so, the election could be challenged.

Trego Mountain Ear, February 22, 1988

Appointment of relative to office of trust or emolument unlawful — exceptions — publication of notice. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), it is unlawful for a person or member of any board, bureau, or commission or employee at the head of a department of this state or any political subdivision of this state to appoint to any position of trust or emolument any person related or connected by consanguinity within the fourth degree or by affinity within the second degree.

Montana Code Annotated 2-2-302

Is it legal for a board member to appoint a relative as a substitute? Well, looking at the current laws, substitute teacher is a bit complicated, but if the time requirements (no more than 30 consecutive days) are met, it’s possible. What about substitutes for other roles? If the person was hired for that role before the relative joined the board, the situation is an exception. Additionally, while the language is a bit cluttered, 2(b) suggests that if certain conditions are met, it could be done legally.

school district trustees if all the trustees, with the exception of any trustee who is related to the person being appointed and who must abstain from voting for the appointment, approve the appointment of a person related to a trustee;

Montana Code Annotated 2-2-302. 2(b)

There’s also an accompanying requirement for the position to be posted in the newspaper in advance of the appointment.

As a side note, there are also rules governing election judges. Provided that the election judge isn’t a relative of a trustee running for reelection, having the relative of a school board trustee as the election judge wouldn’t be a problem. Of course, having one of your relatives judge the election your running in? That’s still a problem. Additionally, since election judges are paid, appointing your relatives is still bad form, even if it is an exception in Montana Code Annotated 2-2-302.

But read the whole issue:

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