It only took a few months in office for Diego Morales to expose a need for reform in state law, yet the revelation has nothing to do with elections.

Indiana’s newest secretary of state hired his brother-in-law as co-director of the agency’s Auto Dealer Services division. The post pays a cool $108,000 annually.

While Morales’ brother-in-law, Shawn Grady, has experience in auto sales at a Southern Indiana car dealership, such a hire screams nepotism. Unfortunately, Indiana’s laws don’t address the situation.

Most close familial connections are covered under the state’s nepotism policy, but the rules do not include brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law.

That needs to change.

Regardless of how qualified a relative might be for a position, an office-holder shouldn’t be allowed to hire a family member. Doing so brings into question matters of fairness, performance and compensation.

Will the boss treat the person he’s going to see at the holiday family get-together the same as an employee he or she might encounter only in the workplace? Will the boss’s evaluation of his family member/employee be swayed by the family relationship? Can the public truly believe that an employee’s qualifications trumped other candidates for the job if the person hired for a position is related to the employer?

What about pay? Will a family member/employee be paid equally to an unrelated colleague? While reportedly in our secretary of state’s case, the pay rate is the same, who will be responsible for monitoring each situation to ensure fairness?

At the state and local levels, Indiana’s nepotism restrictions are too lax. Government isn’t the family business. It’s not a private venture.

Hires should be above reproach so that the public can trust that office-holders are bringing the best and brightest on board. When an elected official hires a family member, the public has good reason to doubt the decision.

These loopholes should be closed by state lawmakers. It’s unfortunate that those we trust to govern and lead us even need such rules to be put into place, but Morales gives us an example of why such laws are needed.

Jeffersonville News and Tribune

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