Several recent posts on this blog as well as links to other bloggers and articles in the News-Sentinel have criticized the blatant nepotism, appointing family members to public jobs, by the Knox County Commission at its Jan. 31 meeting.
Is nepotism unique to Knox County? No. There is rampant nepotism, hiring family members, in Hamblen County Government as well. And the smell is just the same as in Knox County. The only difference is that a lot of people in Hamblen County have gotten used to the odor of nepotism here, and the people who benefit---and there are plenty---sure aren't going to complain.
Most officials try to keep Hamblen County nepotism "under-the-radar." It's sort of a Courthouse secret or practical joke on the taxpayers. And there are people who benefit or who have friends who benefit from local nepotism. They try to excuse all the family hirings because we're a "small" county or community.
Well, we are not a small county. We ranked 20th in population out of 95 counties in 2000. We have about 60,000+ residents. Qualified, non-family members are available IF that's the kind of open and fair hiring process that officials want.
Trustee Bill Brittain made a statement to me years ago about county government--well before I was elected to the Commission in 2002. I have never forgotten his words. He said that each elected official has his or her own little "kingdom."
What I found out later is not only are there kingdoms, but the elected official who is the king or queen grabs every opportunity to build his/her kingdom and increase his/her extended family's income by hiring family or swapping out family hirings with other officials. You hire my family, I'll hire yours.
Blatant nepotism, where available jobs are not posted or where there is a pretend posting but the family member who will fill the position has already been selected, is just one of the many reasons people are turned off by government and don't even bother to show up at election time.
Nepotism, self-serving deals, and family hirings make a lot of people wonder if officials really run for office to serve and to vote in the best interest of the taxpayers or whether these people run for office just so they get to set up a kingdom and promote their and their families' personal financial interests.
When kingdoms are in place, too often you end up with corruption, taxpayer-funded family hirings, and taxpayer-funded deals and no-bid contracts.
There is a lot of lip-service about avoiding favoritism in hiring, but nobody really wants to get rid of sweetheart deals and family hirings. The party in control of the kingdom now is happy, and the party that is out of office is just waiting until it eventually grabs control of a kingdom and gets to be a kingpin disguised as a public servant.