RIVERSIDE – Minutes after Sheriff Chad Bianco, playing the role of a proud father, posted on Facebook that his daughter was graduating from the Peace Officer Standard and Training Academy and would be sworn in as a Riverside County Deputy Sheriff, critics pounced.
Some said Sheriff Bianco’s move runs afoul of county policy; others said the optics look bad. Some even said Sheriff Bianco eliminated a longstanding policy former Sheriff Stan Sniff had in place that prohibited hiring family members. Others say Sniff had a longstanding “posture” of not hiring family members.
Sniff declined to be interviewed for this story.
It sends an unfair message to others on assignments and in line for promotions, one longtime department employee said. “Favoritism seems automatic.” Her supervisors will be cautious about any possible discipline measure for fear of upsetting her dad — and retaliation.
They point to a wealth of stories on the Internet in which sheriffs find themselves in legal trouble for nepotism.
Former Assistant Sheriff Kevin Vest, who was ousted as part of Sheriff Bianco’s purge of the executive team after he took office, takes issue with the hire. He believes Riverside County Ordinance 440 prohibits it. You may read County Ordinance 440 by clicking here.
“While I will admit that the difference in levels from sheriff to deputy is huge, the policy exists for a reason and should be followed,” Vest said. “The fact she applied prior to him winning the election doesn’t provide an exemption for this. I personally have been in meetings where we had to reconsider moves to remain in compliance with the policy. I believe it is a sound policy to prevent favoritism.”
The late Sheriff Larry Smith had a son who wanted to be a deputy. He applied and joined San Bernardino County, not Riverside County, to avoid any appearance of favoritism or nepotism.
Whether it’s bad optics for the department is in the eye of the beholder. As for the rest of the allegations about county policy prohibiting the hire, turns out they are apparently not true — according to the County Human Resources Department and the Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Bianco has every right to hire his daughter, according to Lt. Chris Durham. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department does not have a policy restricting the hiring of family members.
“In fact, our employees are our best recruiters and we have a long history of family members working in the Department in all ranks and assignments,” Durham told Uken Report.
Former Sheriff Stan Sniff implemented a “Nepotism and Conflicting Relationships” policy in 2009, Durham said. This policy specifically deals with directly supervising a relative, or someone involved in a personal relationship to include marriage, dating, and/or cohabitation. For example, a sergeant is not allowed to directly supervise a family member, spouse, or someone they are dating to avoid allegations of favoritism. This policy is still in effect.
Nowhere in this policy does it forbid Sheriff Bianco from hiring his daughter as a deputy sheriff. Riverside County Ordinance 440 specifically addresses public officers appointing their spouses, or the spouses of other county officers, to paid positions.
However, County Policy 440 states, “No person shall be denied the opportunity for employment or continued employment because such person is related to any person presently employed by the County of Riverside.” County Ordinance 440 also prohibits county officers or employees directly supervising family members.
Brooke Federico, Riverside County Public Information Officer, said the county has memorandums of understanding with all bargaining units pertaining to the employment of relatives. These provisions are based on County Ordinance 440, which can be found by clicking here.
Below are the provisions from the bargaining units pertaining to the employment of relatives:
- No person shall be denied employment because such person is related to another member of the department.
- An employed family member cannot execute direct supervision over or participate in decisions specifically pertaining to a close relative employed by the department. Close relative is defined as husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law.
- Should a relative become within the supervision of another family member, the employee will either promote, transfer or voluntarily demote to another position which the employee is eligible to fill within the department and outside of supervision from the relative.
Even if it’s legal, critics say it does not pass the smell test.
- Bianco Facebook Post: Facebook
- Tori Kimsey: Facebook
- Sheriff Chad Bianco: Riverside County Sheriff's Department