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OUR OPINION: City hiring mustn’t be family affair

A check of the Herald’s archives shows that since 1989 — 25 years ago — the word “nepotism” has appeared in the paper only 52 times.

Greg Hoover, Grand Forks’ director of urban development, should be embarrassed and ashamed that his actions have brought about Appearance No. 53.

Now, Grand Forks residents should hope they’ll see the word more often — at least until local governments pass anti-nepotism rules, thereby following the North Dakota state government’s lead.

The facts that, No. 1, Hoover’s daughter worked in his office, and No. 2, she rented a unit in one of the federally funded affordable-housing projects that had been built by that office resulted in an “adverse finding” by the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

The state department’s monitoring “found this project to be out of compliance with the Conflict of Interest regulation,” which would have prohibited Ashley Hoover from renting the apartment.

The elder Hoover said he forgot about the conflict of interest rule. More important, by the time his daughter rented the unit, his office no longer was involved in the project’s management.

“I don’t make the decisions on who gets the apartments; that’s up to the leasing agent,” Hoover said in the Herald’s story.

But the fact that Ashley Hoover worked in Greg Hoover’s office in the first place is harder to explain away.

And that’s the circumstance Greg Hoover should take responsibility for, for it’s an arrangement that simply should not have happened.

Hoover should have thought harder about the hiring of his daughter when the possibility first arose.

Then he should have nixed it, for the simple reason when taxpayers learn about such hires, they absolutely fume about them.

As Hoover probably does, too, when he reads news stories about other public officials being careless with their power.

Here’s one such story: “Chicago political history rife with nepotism, aldermanic dynasties,” reads a 2013 headline in the Chicago Tribune.

“School districts hire superintendents’ relatives,” another Tribune headline proclaims.

“Anti-nepotism plan dashed in close vote.” “Here, who you know, not what, is a rule.”

Not coincidentally, Illinois came in last on this week’s Gallup survey of trust in government.

In contrast, North Dakota came in first.

And a huge element of that trust is the fact that nepotism in North Dakota remains rare, as the dearth of stories in the Herald’s archives shows.

In fact, the last time nepotism surfaced in state government — in 1998, in the wake of the discovery that several UND department heads had either hired or awarded research grants to their relatives — the North Dakota Legislature promptly passed a law.

“A state official or state employee, in the exercise of that official’s or employee’s duties, may not serve in a supervisory capacity over, or enter a personal service contract with” a relative, it reads.

Local units of government in Grand Forks should pass and strictly enforce similar rules. Then the word nepotism can go back to its “seldom seen” status — where it belongs.