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Davis' relatives on county payroll

November 13, 1997

Davis' relatives on county payroll

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

Two relatives of Washington County personnel chief Alan J. Davis are employed by the county in apparent violation of a policy, which he helped to write, that discourages the hiring of relatives.

"It sure sends the wrong message to the community," said Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers. "If Alan Davis, human resources director, believes his relatives should be employed by the county, in violation of a county policy that he drafted, then he has been working for the county too long."

But Commissioner James R. Wade blamed the previous board of County Commissioners, which included Bowers, for approving the hiring of Davis' sister and brother-in-law.

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"A lot of people would think Ron's been working for the county too long," Wade said.

The county's anti-nepotism policy, adopted in December 1988, "strictly prohibits" Davis and other supervisors "from attempting to influence the hiring of or recommending the employment of relatives."

Supervisors must "avoid any appearance of favoritism or discrimination in making such (hiring) decisions," it says.

The commissioners make the final decision on employment in all county departments except the sheriff's department.

Records from meetings of the Washington County Commissioners show that Davis' brother-in-law was hired in 1992 and his sister in 1993.

The commissioners voted unanimously to hire Tim Cordell as a lead worker in the Parks Department on June 16, 1992, records show.

Cordell, Davis' brother-in-law, makes $31,361 a year.

Davis' sister Cheryl Cordell, who is Tim Cordell's wife, was hired as a part-time records clerk at County Commuter, according to records from the Aug. 24, 1993, commissioners meeting.

About a year later, the commissioners promoted Cheryl Cordell to full-time public relations assistant, the Aug. 16, 1994, records show. Her job pays $22,043.

The commissioners make hiring decisions based on staff recommendations, they said.

County department heads interview and rank candidates for jobs that they supervise. Davis does background checks and presents names to the commissioners.

Davis refused to answer questions about Cheryl Cordell's hiring.

"I'm not giving you this information," he said in a telephone interview. "Every time I talk to you folks, you try to make an issue out of something. That's why I don't talk to the newspaper anymore."

Davis hung up the phone and didn't return another call asking for further comment.

Cheryl Cordell declined to comment and Tim Cordell didn't return a phone call requesting his comment.

The issue of nepotism in Washington County government was raised earlier this month, when The Herald-Mail wrote about the October hiring by Sheriff Charles Mades of his son-in-law Mark Weber.

The sheriff's department does not have an anti-nepotism policy.

At the time, Wade was the only County Commissioner who spoke out against Weber's employment.

Wade criticized the Cordell hirings, but said the previous board of County Commissioners should have known they were Davis' relatives and not approved the hirings.

Bowers says he didn't know that Tim Cordell was related to Davis.

Bowers says he did not approve Cheryl Cordell's hiring. Records show he was present at the meeting and the vote was unanimous, but give no indication of the number of votes cast.

Wade said Davis has been punished for the violation. In 1995, the current board of County Commissioners put a letter of reprimand in Davis' personnel file. The commissioners later authorized the removal of the letter from his file, he said.

"We actually took action on what a previous board failed to do," Wade said. "It sends a message to the personnel department manager we're not going to tolerate that. They have a responsibility for who they hire."

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said members of the board of County Commissioners that hired the Cordells probably were aware of the relationship to Davis.

But he said Davis did not influence the hirings.

"It's hard to react to something that long ago. Apparently, they were the best qualified candidates," he said.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey, who was not on the board when the Cordells were hired, said sometimes in a small town like Hagerstown it's difficult to hire people without such conflicts of interest.

"With him being personnel manager, it creates a little bit more of a problem," he said.

Both Downey and Snook said Davis was reprimanded but could not remember if it was because of nepotism.

Commissioner John S. Shank, who also approved the hirings, could not be reached for comment.

Davis' wife, Jan, also works for the county but she was hired before the two were married. They work in separate departments.

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