Kenyon mayor crosses the lineKenyon Mayor Diane Barrett handed her daughter the job as manager of the municipal liquor store over four other qualified candidates — or that's the way it looks.
By: R-E Editorial Board, The Republican Eagle
Kenyon Mayor Diane Barrett handed her daughter the job as manager of the municipal liquor store over four other qualified candidates — or that's the way it looks.
Barrett and two City Council members voted Tuesday night to give Megan Loken, who has been the interim manager, the permanent job. The Kenyon Leader reported the story Wednesday.
The fact this happened at a special meeting casts further suspicion on Barrett. Add in the facts that city leaders eliminated the former manager earlier this year and that Loken was the assistant manager at the time, and suddenly Barrett's actions look worse.
The final insult to Kenyon citizens, however, comes from Barrett's contention that she did nothing wrong. She sees no conflict of interest because she "gains nothing financially from the move because her daughter doesn't live with her," the Leader reported.
We'd like to know Barrett's definition of conflict of interest. It certainly doesn't fit any definition that we know.
Conflict of interest occurs when a public official's decisions are influenced by the official's personal interests. Clearly, a parent has personal interest in a child -— even one who's an adult and lives under a different roof.
Actual or potential conflict of interest occurs when someone is in a position to influence a decision that results in personal gain for that person or for a relative. Again, the parent/child relationship and ensuing conflict is clear in this case. This is also called nepotism.
Barrett should have excused herself, both from the interview process and the vote. Kenyon City Attorney Scott Riggs and Kenyon City Administrator Chris Heineman advised her to abstain. She voted anyway.
Small-town politics are rife with potential pitfalls and rumors. Barrett jumped right into this one, and her actions will reflect badly on Loken, who by most accounts has done a good job. The other candidates have every right to challenge the council’s decision.
Taken another day and in another way, the vote probably would have gone in Loken’s favor because three council members — including one absent Tuesday— favored Loken.
The mayor need not have voted. Indeed, she shouldn't have.