WHETHER IT'S Contra Costa County supervisors, the city of Hercules, or, now, Alameda County supervisors, nepotism in government cannot be tolerated. Public officials must not be making decisions that appeared to benefit their spouses, offspring and other relatives.
As we have said, we applaud Contra Costa supervisors for establishing a policy prohibiting their relatives from applying to them for appointments to boards, committees or commissions.
By creating the policy, the board acknowledged that when doing the public's business, appearances matter.
We also applaud Hercules residents for recognizing conflict of interest when they see it. They have forced three City Council members and the city manager out of office and are conducting a recall effort on the remaining two for, among other things, their complicity in steering $3 million in no-bid contracts to a company headed by the city manager's young daughters.
In this case, the voters have driven home the point that when doing the public's business, appearances matter.
Which brings us to Alameda County, where Supervisor Nate Miley has a familial conflict swirling around him. As we've recently learned, Miley's 24-year-old daughter is one of about 30 people who works for the Associated Community Action Program, which offers youth, employment and re-entry services to low-income residents.
According to Miley, the program gets hundred of thousands of dollars in grants from Alameda County. The county also provides a $325,000 loan fund to help the program's cash flow. Miley, as a member of the county board of supervisors, approves that funding. And, for 10 years, Miley also has been the county's representative on the Community Action Program's board, so he's closely involved with oversight of the nonprofit organization.
Miley insists his daughter got the job on her own. Perhaps, that is true. But think about this: If you were doing the hiring and a daughter of one of your board members who also has power over your organization's flow of money applied for a job, would you feel any extra pressure to hire her?
It's getting dicier. The program now has run out of money, the board has fired its executive director, layoffs are almost certain and Alameda County is being asked to help bail out the program.
Rather than recusing himself as he should, Miley has come to the defense of the workers and advocated for more money for the program, including increasing the loan fund to $571,000.
Those might be the right solutions. That's to be determined. But county supervisors must be devoid of personal interest when making funding decisions. And the program's board members must be equally independent when making the tough decisions about money and jobs that lie ahead.
Miley should recuse himself from Alameda County board decisions on this matter, and another supervisor should be selected to represent taxpayers on the program's board.
Whether his current role crosses a legal line is uncertain, but also irrelevant. There is absolutely no way to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest and nepotism, and when doing the public's business, such appearances matter.