The Ohio Ethics Commission recently issued a reminder bulletin about nepotism and the employment of family members of public officials in summer jobs. The bulletin reminds public officials and employees that Ohio's Ethics Law prohibits all public officials and employees from (1) hiring their family members for public jobs; (2) using their public positions to obtain public jobs (or other contracts) for family members; and (3) using their public positions to get promotions, selective raises, or other job-related benefits for family members.
Who is a "public official"?
A public official is any person, paid or unpaid, who is elected or appointed to a full-time or part-time public position or who is employed by a public agency in a full-time or part-time job. This definition includes school board members.
Who is a "family member"?
Family members include, but are not limited to, the public official's spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, step-children and step-parents. These listed individuals need not be the official's dependants in order to qualify as a "family member". Uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws who live in the same household as the public official are also considered to be "family members".
Can a public official's family member work for the same agency as the official?
Yes, as long as the public official has not hired, recommended for hire, or otherwise been involved in any way in the hire of the family member and the family member is not the official's minor child. Public officials also are not allowed to be involved in the interviewing of other applicants for the same position for which his or her family member is applying.
A public official's minor child (or step-child) can work for the same agency only if the official can show that: (1) the agency's hiring process will be fair and open and will not favor the child; (2) the agency will provide a broad opportunity to qualified and interested applicants to submit applications; (3) all qualified and interested applicants who are not related to the official have already been hired; and (4) vacancies still exist. The official must also show that the public had full knowledge of the family relationship and the official did not participate in the agency's deliberation or decision involving the employment of the minor child.
Hiring a family member in violation of the aforementioned laws can result in a felony criminal offense. A public official who uses his/her position to gain employment or promotions for a family member can be charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense. Furthermore, the family member who was hired in violation of these Ethics Laws may find his/her employment contract void and unenforceable, and that family member can be removed from employment at any time.