When Anaheim City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway was first elected in 2004, she wanted to hire her daughter as her aide.
“Absolutely not,” was the answer from then City Manager Dave Morgan, who Galloway said cited a nepotism ban at City Hall.
But when Councilwoman Gail Eastman first became a council member in 2011 and wanted to hire her daughter-in-law, Connie-Jewel Eastman, as her aide, City Manager Tom Wood said no problem.
When Galloway heard about Eastman’s hire, she questioned Wood about it. “Tom Wood told me he wasn’t going to die on that sword,” she said.
Eastman said such decisions are made on “a case-by-case basis.”
“I just got word from the city manager’s office that having her wouldn’t be detrimental to the city, so therefore she could be hired,” said Eastman.
The city’s current nepotism policy bans hiring relatives of council members. But the ban extends only to full-time employees, according to Human Resources Director Kristine Ridge. Council aides, which can be compensated up to $60,000, are part-time employees.
“If there was a policy change, nobody told me anything about it,” Galloway said.
Ridge says nepotism restrictions are important because they maintain the public’s trust in government. “You would not ever want an immediate family member directly supervised by another family member,” she said.
Therein lies part of Eastman’s argument. Council aides technically report to the city manager, Ridge said. And the part-time position is not a career path, Eastman said, so there’s no chance of installing her daughter-in-law into a better-paying position in city government. “It’s not a career-building thing,” she said.
Eastman’s employing her daughter-in-law presents at least one other twist. Council members are given tickets to events at Angels Stadium, the Honda Center and other city venues, but unless the tickets are used to carry out city business or to reward an employee, the council member must reimburse the city for the cost of the tickets or declare it as personal income.
According to public records, Connie-Jewel Eastman received thousands of dollars worth of free tickets to U2, Rhiana and Van Halen concerts and other city venue events. Under which category does she fall?
She is a city employee, according to Eastman’s public disclosure forms.
Eastman says the issue boils down to having good help. She says her daughter-in-law, who also works part-time for Disney, is more than qualified for the position.
“The bottom line is if the person qualifies, not who they’re related to,” Eastman said. “I’d be hard pressed to find somebody to work part time for the kind of money we pay for the level she’s at. That’s just a fact.”