Nepotism policy snags Two Harbors fire chief
Two Harbors officials will review the city's nepotism policy after a potential hiring conflict arose in the city's volunteer fire department. John Schlangen of Two Harbors was in line to take a position with the fire department as soon as current...
Two Harbors officials will review the city's nepotism policy after a potential hiring conflict arose in the city's volunteer fire department.
John Schlangen of Two Harbors was in line to take a position with the fire department as soon as current member Steve Blettner retires on Sept. 15. Schlangen came out on top of a list of other candidates for the position.
But Schlangen's older brother, Mark, is the department's current fire chief. The city's nepotism policy prohibits city employees from directly supervising their spouse or immediate relatives.
Mark Schlangen said he was unaware of the policy when his brother tested for the position in August. Mark Schlangen did recuse himself from his brother's testing and scoring process.
A member of the city's personnel committee raised the issue when John Schlangen's name was referred to the committee.
The nepotism policy, adopted because of some potential conflicts within the city's public works department, has been in place since 1999, City Administrator Lee Klein said.
The current situation caught some city councilors off-guard, mainly because firefighters are considered volunteers, although the city cuts each member a check for hours spent on calls and training, and each firefighter also earns a city-paid pension.
Some councilors wondered whether an exemption could be made for the Schlangens, for the entire department, or if the policy should be scrapped altogether.
On Monday, Schlangen said the issue is likely to arise again no matter what the council decides. Of the 22 firefighters with the department, there are three sets of family members, he said. That means that if one brother, for example, rises to a supervisor position, that, too, would violate the policy. The same situation is true on the Lake County Rescue Squad, Schlangen said.
"Traditionally, emergency service [groups] tend to attract families," Schlangen said.
During Monday's pre-agenda meeting, Councilor Jason Kuettel asked Schlangen whether he would resign if the nepotism policy remained in place.
Schlangen was noncommittal, but afterwards said he had considered resigning as fire chief, while still volunteering as a firefighter, if that meant John Schlangen could join the department. Schlangen, who took the chief position after the city struggled to find a permanent chief, also said he was not trying to pressure the city council into changing the nepotism policy.
The matter will go before the city's personnel committee next week for review, council President Randy Bolen said. The City Council may take up the matter at their next meeting.