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Last week, The News Herald ran an article on the change to the city’s anti-nepotism policy made at the last Council meeting. The policy change allowed aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of city employees to be hired. However, the article failed to mention that this change also applies to members of the City Council.

I was at that meeting. This change came not at the recommendation of city staff, but at the special request of Mayor Thompson and Councilman Simmons. It was approved by Thompson, Simmons, and Councilman Fleming despite reasonable objections from the city attorney and councilmembers Wendy Cato and Chris Hawkins.

In the article, the Mayor stated that this has been a “hot topic” for years, but the only concrete example he could give was a single instance of two employees getting married -- a situation unaffected by the policy change. Curiously, of the many hours the Mayor has spent on my podcast talking about the “hot topic” issues affecting Morganton, not once did he mention the City’s anti-nepotism policy.

One cannot help but ask if there was some ulterior motive to the policy change. Every Morganton citizen should be asking: Why did Mayor Thompson, Councilman Fleming, and Councilman Simmons feel the need to push through this rushed and ill-advised change?

Fleming is stepping down from the Council this year, and Larry Whisnant has recently filed for election to that seat. Whisnant, a former member of the City Council, currently has a nephew employed by Morganton Public Safety. Does this relationship have anything to do with the policy change, especially given that this change was made at the last council meeting before the election cycle officially began?

I sincerely hope that you will make your voice heard at the ballot box this November.

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