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Sheriff says hiring son-in-law was no family matter

November 03, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

When Mark Weber applied for a job at the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Charles F. Mades felt he had landed a man with integrity, intelligence and character.

It was the kind of hire that ordinarily would go unnoticed outside the department, Mades said.

But unlike most new employees, the former golf pro at Beaver Creek Country Club is Mades' son-in-law.

Mades said he hired Weber, 35, because he was the best candidate, an opinion supported by Capt. Carroll Keller, who had a hand in the selection process.

"When that vacancy was available, he was the most qualified applicant we had," Keller said.

Weber was the only one of "four or five" applicants who made it through the screening process for new deputies, Mades said.

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The process includes a 100-question written test and an interview with a panel that includes a lieutenant, a first sergeant and a sergeant; an extensive background check, a drug test and a type of lie-detector test called a voice-stress analyzer.

"The question is: Did I hire the best-qualified applicant?" Mades said. "Should he be disqualified because I'm here?"

The Sheriff's Department has no policy against hiring family members.

Other county government departments do have policies that prohibit hiring relatives, by blood or marriage.

The policy that governs most county employees says supervisors must "avoid any appearance of favoritism or discrimination in making such (hiring) decisions."

Mades, however, said it makes sense to take personal knowledge of individuals into account.

"You'd be foolish not to look at the person," he said.

Washington County Commissioner James R. Wade said hiring a relative is improper, whether Weber is qualified or not.

"My only concern is it does provide the public an opportunity to feel there's some type of preferential treatment," Wade said.

Other elected officials, however, supported Mades' decision.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said it would be a problem only if Mades overlooked better-qualified applicants.

"I'm sure he thought long and hard before he made that decision," Snook said.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he sees no conflict of interest and views Mades as a man of integrity.

"If it's your own blood relative, then I have a problem. You would see me jumping up and down on the street corner," he said.

Weber began work on Oct. 6 on a conditional basis. As with all new recruits, he spent time in each of the department's three major divisions: the patrol staff, the judicial staff and the county detention center.

In order to become a full-fledged deputy - at a salary of $23,808 - he must first complete an 18-week program at the police academy, which begins in January.

"He doesn't get any special preference. We didn't do anything for him that we wouldn't do for anyone else," Mades said.

Weber said he doesn't think his hiring newsworthy.

"With all the problems in Washington County, I can't believe the newspaper is concerned about this article," he said.

Staff Writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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