An article originally reported by Jon Alexander regarding possible nepotism in Essex County government has already generated quite a bit of buzz among county employees and residents here; and it's not too hard to understand why.
To be clear, Jon is of no relation to our publisher, Mr. Daniel Alexander. A former employee of Denton Publications, Jon often does some freelance writing for us. I probably would have written a similar article had he not done so first.
His article raises two very important questions. First, "Does the fact that there are a number of county employees related to high-ranking county officials constitute nepotism?" and secondly, "Should the public be concerned about it?"
County jobs are some of the most sought-after in this region; and for good reason. The jobs are often very secure with better-than-average pay and good benefits.
With so many familial relationships among county employees, it seems a case could be made for nepotism. Still, even if you do consider these hiring practices to be nepotism, is it of any major concern to the residents of Essex County?
Just as Sandy Lewis alluded to in his address to the County Board, employees being related to one another does not necessarily mean that they are not qualified to be in the position. What would be concerning is if family members were hired in the place of more qualified applicants simply because of their blood ties.
Still, I have to wonder if the instances where family members were hired have less to do with last names and more to do with timing and old-fashioned party politics.
Many of the families that are well-represented on the county payroll also tend to be some of the most politically involved, especially in the Republican Party. Government hiring based on political affiliation and favors seems to be at least somewhat more socially acceptable than nepotism, even though it often results in the same problems, and the line between the two often becomes blurred.