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Campbell Co. Fiscal Court to Appeal Ethics Commission Decision

A decision by the Campbell County Ethics Commission will be appealed by the Campbell County Fiscal Court at the Campbell County Circuit Court.

The Fiscal Court voted 2-1 last week to move forward with an appeal.

The case, which first appeared before the ethics commission in April, relates to the hiring of Lisa Jolly as concessions manager at A.J. Jolly Park where her husband, Terry Jolly, is the golf pro. Resident Erik Hermes filed the complaint, alleging nepotism in the hiring.

The county argued that Lisa Jolly had been hired as a seasonal worker each year since 1999 and that with her experience, she is a good choice. 

It has been a long road for this ethics complaint, stretching over the past four months.

In April, the case was dismissed on a technicality because Hermes failed to sign the complaint. In May, when the case returned, members of the ethics commission walked out of the meeting in a dispute with County Attorney Steve Franzen.

In June, the ethics commission chair, Andrea Janovic, argued that Franzen has a conflict of interest in the case as legal adviser to the ethics commission and the fiscal court.

When a formal hearing was held later that month, the fiscal court hired attorney Jeff Mando to argue on its behalf.

From The River City News article written at the time:

It is not regular practice for the county to hire immediate family members,” Mando stated. “The fact that nepotism is only an issue with two county employees, out of more than 250 employees, lays claim to that fact.”

Mando also attempted to prove that county officials followed the rules established in the ordinance, by presenting evidence that Mrs. Jolly received no compensation, benefits or other job consideration not given to other employees of similar classification or job requirements which included presenting data indicating the number of times the open position of concessions manager was viewed online, documentation of higher pay scales in surrounding counties for the same position, Mrs. Jolly's employment application, and memos to the Fiscal Court requesting Mrs. Jolly's hiring.     

County Administrator Matt Elberfeld testified to the county’s hiring process and how Mrs. Jolly's hire is a benefit to the county. Elberfeld argued that hiring tenured employees with qualifications matching Mrs. Jolly’s, with a record exemplary job performances, is a great benefit for the county.

“Also,” Elberfeld went on to say, “the Affordable Care Act requires the county to pay for health insurance of our employees. Paying for one family insurance policy instead of two separate insurance policies is another benefit to the county.”

Terry Jolly also appeared at Wednesday’s hearing and was questioned under oath by Mando. Jolly was asked about his feelings as they relate to the ethics question about his wife's hiring.

"It’s probably the lowest point,” Jolly said.

Jolly argued that he does not determine his wife’s hiring or her pay, and stated that his wife was more than qualified to hold her position at the park.

"Lisa has taken care of flower beds around the park and the grounds, even while not employed at the park,” the golf pro said.

After the two-and-a-half hour meeting, the ethics board concluded that Lisa Jolly's hiring was beneficial to the county and that she received no special treatment, but also that the Fiscal Court does not do enough to discourage nepotism in this particular case.

Janovic, the board's chair, said that the board will continue to work on the issue.

“This commission has already begun deliberation on how to make the nepotism portion of the code of ethics clearer," she said. "Also, because there may be evidence of violation of the county’s administrative code, county employees should be better educated about the administrative code.”

Last week, the fiscal court met in executive session to discuss a possible appeal. When it came time to vote on the matter, County Commissioners Brian Painter and Tom Lampe voted to appeal while Commissioner Charlie Coleman voted against it. Judge/Executive Steve Pendery was not present for the meeting.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher