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County board tables nepotism policy talks

DULUTH, MN — A lot of talk but no action. That’s the result of hours of debate amongst St. Louis County Commissioners today Tuesday, over a proposed “no nepotism” policy.

It’s being considered after County Attorney Mark Rubin hired his son, Tony Rubin to be a prosecutor earlier this year, bypassing several other candidates in the process.

St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson minced no words Tuesday as it relates to the proposed policy.

“We’re going to throw a policy [out there] that isn’t going to change a darn thing,” he said.

Commissioner Patrick Boyle says the county attorney’s office operates under the authority of the county attorney. So, changing hiring practices for that office would specifically require the state’s approval.

That means, if the policy were passed,  it would change nothing for the way the county attorney hires people.

“Nothing, according to any state statute, that provides an authority to any elected official will be changed as a part of this,” said Commissioner Beth Olson.

The policy aims to clarify practices that are guided and dictated by state statutes through civil service law.

The policy aims to create more transparency and clearly lay out hiring guidelines as being based on qualifications and merit.

It’s a topic Olson says she hears a lot about from her constituents.

“We have constituents who have asked for something pretty simple–which is a clear definition and policy that would help them to be able to understand what it means in St. Louis County to be employed as family members,” she said.

It would also clarify that no family member can be involved in decisions involving hiring, promotion, supervision pay raises and grievances of another family member.

“I believe that the policy is good. It might not change a lot. But it will give a better definition of how we go on from here, and how we do business, and how we hire,” said Commissioner Mike Jugovich.

Nelson maintains that the policy is not needed.

“We’re being told that somebody who served this county for 40 years–for 40 years–has somehow done something wrong. And the fact of the matter is that he has not,” he said.

Nelson says adopting this policy would deter family members of those already employed by the county from applying.

“What is going to happen with this policy? We are telling our community, we are telling our potential applicants that this policy is here, and we’re not hiring relatives. I shudder at the thought of what’s going to happen to our applicant list,” said Nelson.

But that’s not to say he wouldn’t consider supporting it, which he’ll have ample time to do when the board revisits the issue on April 2nd.

We did ask County Attorney Rubin for comment, but he declined.

Officials say the policy would in no way make it so family members couldn’t work together.

It would just clarify what the professional relationship should look like if they were coworkers.

Reporter Anthony Matt

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