St Johns County sheriff, David B. Shoar, through his representative, Commander Charles E. Mulligan, told Historic City News last week that the reason he ignored the department’s nepotism policy in the final days of Fiscal 2016 is because the department has a “critical shortage” of qualified applicants to fill the existing need for additional law enforcement deputies.
Chapter 112.3135 Florida Statutes defines a “relative”, for identifying nepotism, as “an individual who is related as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, or half-sister”.
The Fiscal Year for county government ends on September 30th each year, however, on September 6th, the sheriff hired Lawrence Scott Dixon as a new law enforcement deputy at an annual salary of $42,836.98. Dixon is the stepfather of controversial deputy sheriff Jeremy Banks, believed by many to have murdered his live-in girlfriend, Michelle O’Connell; inside his home, with his service pistol, on the night of September 2, 2010.
The nepotism rule prohibits favoritism being shown in the hiring process based on a relationship. On an ongoing basis, it discourages collusion, builds public trust in the ability of employees to act impartially, and avoids workplace conflicts originating from familial and marital stress.
St Johns County Sheriff’s Office Policy 32.1.25 prohibits the department from accepting applications for full time employment from relatives of existing full time employees. Relatives can apply for a part-time position with the department — but will not be considered for full-time employment per the published policy.
The human resources department is not bound by the nepotism policy for applications for “critical shortage positions” when a need exists, as is being alleged in this hiring decision. The hiring of Larry Dixon, however, was not made by the human resources department, it was made by the sheriff; since Policy 32.1.26 provides that no person will be considered for a full-time appointment or employment if they are a relative of any other person within the SJSO “without the express knowledge and approval of the Sheriff”.
Of course, the public relations backlash from hiring Jeremy Banks’ stepfather ostensibly to fill a “critical shortage” really doesn’t need to be declared, since Policy 32.1.27 reserves the right of the Sheriff to appoint or commission any qualified person, and Policy 32.1.28 reserves the discretion of the Sheriff over all matters concerning employment practices within the Sheriff’s Office, regardless of policy, so long as he doesn’t violate any applicable local, state, or federal laws in the process.
The fact is that nepotism is rampant within the local sheriff’s office who makes no effort to control employees who marry after both parties are already on the job. There are a number of examples of multiple marriages, followed by divorce, and then remarriage to another co-worker.
It is unfortunate that such incestuous relationships are allowed to be carried on unchecked — especially when the highest-ranking law enforcement agency in the county decides that it is going to “investigate itself” as has been the case of Michelle O’Connell; whose mother used to work for the department and whose brother still does.
Now Banks’ and his stepfather are both carrying guns in the same division of the same sheriff’s office. In the future, is one going to lie and the other going to swear to it? But then, Shoar has proven himself to be a lightning rod for controversy. Why should this decision be any different?