Park districts change rules on hiring of relatives

Park districts change rules on hiring of relatives

Both the Champaign and Urbana park districts have adopted policies largely overturning bans on nepotism in hiring when it comes to summer jobs.

The Urbana park board this week voted to amend its personnel policy to allow the district to hire relatives of full-time employees for seasonal positions. The Champaign Park District board voted to do the same thing at a Nov. 14 meeting.

However, both park districts specify that relatives of the executive director and park board members still cannot be hired for seasonal jobs.

A shrinking pool of applicants for summer jobs in recent years is prompting the change. The Urbana district has about 350 seasonal and part-time positions and receives about double to triple that many job applications.

"We used to get four or five applicants for every position," said Dan Gibble, the district's superintendent of recreation.

Urbana Park District Executive Director Vicki Mayes said children of park district employees are generally familiar with how park districts operate.

"By and large, most of these are young people raised around the parks and recreation field and they understand the work it takes," she said.

The Urbana district is specifying that a seasonal hire who is related to a park district employee cannot work in the same division as the relative. The district has three divisions: administrative, operations and planning and recreation.

Hiring decisions must be based on merit and include an application, interview and reference checks, the policy states. The relative cannot conduct the hiring process.

Bobbie Herakovich, the Champaign district's executive director, said the district has about 300 to 400 summer employees, and receives about 1,000 applications for those positions.

The problem for the district, she said, is finding enough qualified applicants for about 100 pool-related positions, including lifeguards.

"We have such a need for summer pool staff, and a lot of staff members have kids that age," Herakovich said. "It used to be really popular to work at the pool. Now they have to go through (lifeguard) testing, and there's concern about exposure to the sun."

As in Urbana, the Champaign Park District requires that all seasonal employees must go through the standard hiring process and that a seasonal employee cannot work in the same department as a full-time relative. The Champaign district has four departments: operations, recreation, finance and marketing.

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