Hiring son-in law to fix sign for $100 was nepotism.

Hiring son-in law to fix sign for $100 was nepotism.

A city sign was damaged in the city of Tracy (City).  Rhoads (Mayor) was the mayor of the City. Mayor hired her son-in-law, Matthew D. Spores, to repair the sign and agreed to pay him $100.  The Mayor made out a city check payable to her son-in-law, and signed the check in the amount of $100 from the general fund of the City.  The state of Missouri, by and through the Prosecuting Attorney for Platte County, filed a Petition in Quo Warranto to remove the Mayor from office.  The state alleged that the Mayor violated her official duties as mayor by hiring her son-in-law to perform work for the City in violation of the nepotism clause found in Article VII, Section 6 of the Missouri Constitution.  After the trial, the circuit court found that the Mayor’s son-in-law was a relative within the fourth degree by affinity and that the Mayor, in her capacity as a public officer, appointed her son-in-law to employment with the City thereby usurping the power of her public office by violating Article VII, Section 6, of the Missouri Constitution.  The circuit court ordered the Mayor be immediately removed from the office.  The Mayor appealed to the Western District.  On appeal, the only issue in the case was whether or not the Mayor’s appointment of her son-in-law to repair a city sign was “employment” within the meaning of Article VII, Section 6, of the Missouri Constitution that provides: “Any public officer or employee in this state who by virtue of his office or employment names or appoints to public office or employment any relative within the fourth degree, by consanguinity or affinity, shall thereby forfeit his office or employment.” The Western District applied the ordinary meaning of the definition of employment as used in Webster’s New International Dictionary in 1945, when the Constitution was adopted, concluding that the hiring of her son in law was “employment” thereby violating the nepotism provision in the Missouri Constitution.  State v. Rhoads, 2013 WL 2395982 (Mo. App. W.D. 2013). 

Comment Howard: This is an alarming case since I and several others construed this in the context of actually being a city employee instead of an independent contractor as appears to be the situation in this case.  I can see that this case might wreck havoc for many small towns where everyone seems to be related by blood or marriage within the 4th degree. 

 

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