The Journal Record
January 3, 2019
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma towns could soon have restrictions on who runs for city council.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson filed a bill that would prohibit residents from running if they have a spouse or immediate family member who works for the city government. Senate Bill 109 is intended to prevent nepotism among city officials across the state.
Thompson represents state Senate District 8, which covers the Okmulgee area. He lives in Okemah. He said he got the idea because this has been an issue with a city government within his district. The idea is that city employees can take issue with their boss, the city manager, and have a spouse run for city council. City managers must report to the city council, and that can open opportunities for revenge.
“It’s not just a good situation,” Thompson said.
The state already has similar laws regulating boards of education. No one can run for school board if they have relatives to the second degree on the board or employed by the district. That includes family members more distantly related than immediate, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles.
“It ought to be the same thing,” Thompson said. “That’s just a good way to do business.”
He did say he expects some pushback while pursuing the rule, especially in smaller towns where officials have a hard time finding city council candidates.
The Oklahoma Municipal League was closed Thursday for inclement weather and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Texas law prohibits existing city council members from hiring family members, according to the Texas Municipal League handbook. It doesn’t prohibit an existing employee’s family member from running. The Arkansas Municipal League’s handbook for candidates also omits any similar restrictions in that state, as does the Kansas Municipal League’s.