County manager responds to rumors of nepotism

Though there may be blood ties between some county employees, Palmer said it doesn't necessarily mean that they're breaking rules against nepotism, where officials use their power as leverage to get friends and family a job.

While many town supervisors can and do write letters of recommendation or make phone calls on behalf of friends and family who've applied, Palmer explained, they are not allowed to imply that they will take any reciprocal action based on the decision of whether to hire a specific person.

"I've never called any department [about a hire] because I understand that when you're in a position of influence, those single phone calls are a violation of ethics policy," said Palmer. "People come to me and ask, 'Can you put in a good word for me?' and I say, 'No, I really can't.'"

One thing Palmer said he'd like to see change in the county's hiring policy is how it currently allows for management staff to supervise their own relatives. Department heads can also hire relatives in their own department with notification to the personnel director and the chairman of the board.

For his part, Palmer said he has 11 staff working directly under him, and none of them are his relatives.

"Do I oversee the department heads? Sure I do," said Palmer, "but in a county this small, it's just not possible to say that nobody can have anyone related to them under them somewhere."

Some have suggested the fact that Palmer serves alongside his wife is, in itself, a conflict of interest. Palmer disagrees.

Both Palmer's position and that of his wife are immediately subordinate to the board of supervisors, he said; there is no interplay between the two, and therefore no possibility for impropriety.

"I don't oversee the Clerk of the Board and the clerk doesn't oversee me," said Palmer. "She doesn't answer to me and I don't answer to her."

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