By Joel Hall
The Jonesboro City Council has approved an update to its hiring-and-employment policy that defines, and discourages, nepotism.
No "two members of an immediate family [shall] be employed at the same time if such employment will result in an employee supervising, directly or indirectly, a member of his or her immediate family," according to the new policy. It goes on to define immediate family as "spouse, parents, son, daughter, brother, sister, grandparents, whether by blood or by law, and domestic partners living together or apart."
Without discussion, the six-member Jonesboro City Council unanimously approved the new employee policy on Monday. Councilman Roger Grider made the motion to adopt the policy and Mayor Pro Tempore Rick Yonce seconded the motion.
Prior to the meeting, council members revealed that the action was in direct response to the hiring and firing of Patricia Straight, a former administrative assistant for the Jonesboro Police Department.
Yonce, who asked for the revised employee policy to be considered, said Councilman Billy Powell and Straight lived together as boyfriend and girlfriend at the time of her hiring.
"That has to do with the [former Police Chief] Brad Johnson-Billy Powell-Patty Straight episode," Yonce said. "There was over 100 applicants for the position of receptionist and a hiring panel was formed. The field was narrowed down to 13 applicants ... and that included Patty. The normal process is that the top two or three applicants are interviewed. To my knowledge, Patty was not in the top three.
"I told Mr. Powell that it wasn't a good idea to get her on with the police department, but he was persistent," Yonce continued. "Brad was fired about two weeks after that. Patty was fired about two weeks after Brad. We liked Patty, [but] no matter how much longer she was there, it wouldn't have made right what Brad did."
Straight could not be reached for comment on Monday.
According to City Clerk Janice Truhan, Straight was hired by the police department on March 30, and was terminated on June 18. Since July 7, the position has been filled by Probation Assistant Mattie White.
Johnson was fired as the city's police chief on May 21, and is now campaigning for a seat on the Jonesboro City Council.
On Monday, Powell confirmed that Straight continues to live with him as his girlfriend, and did so during the time that Straight was hired and fired by the city. He said he believes some members of the council are changing the rules to serve their own agendas.
"All they are doing is wasting city money by having the lawyers draw up more rules and regulations," said Powell, who is running for re-election. "That was done between Brad [Johnson] and Patty, and I made a special effort not to get involved. They do things their way and then try to get the lawyer to get them out of it. It is the same thing they did to try to fire Brad Johnson."
On Aug. 6, a Georgia Department of Labor Appeals Tribunal hearing reversed the city's original decision to deny Johnson unemployment benefits.
Johnson could not be reached for comment on Monday.
In another matter on Monday, the council unanimously agreed to use the city's West Mill Street parking lot - behind Heritage Bank - for a monthly, citywide yard sale. Under the resolution, city residents will be able to sell used goods on the first Saturday of each month.
Powell said several citizens sought the lot's use.
"A couple of weeks ago, we had a citywide yard sale. If anybody wanted to have them at their home, they could have one without any fee," Powell said. "I was going by some of the houses and they suggested that we might be able to do one once a month at a central location."
According to Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, residents are required to pay a fee of $5 to hold a yard sale at their homes. He said the city will later decide whether to charge vendors at the citywide yard sale a $5 fee, and the times at which to open and close the sales.
"It's a work in progress," Maddox said on Monday.