Q: We interviewed a candidate for a teaching position and it turns out she is the sister of a current school board member. May we hire the candidate if the school board has delegated all final hiring authority to the Superintendent?
A: No, unless the school district is located wholly within a county with a population of less than 35,000 people.
Texas nepotism laws generally prohibit public officials from appointing, confirming the appoint of, or voting for the appointment or conformation of the appointment of an individual to a position that is to be directly or indirectly compensated from public funds if the individual is related to the public official or another member of the school board by blood or marriage. See Tex. Gov’t Code § 573.041. What degree of relation is permissible depends on whether the identified individuals are related by blood (consanguinity) or marriage (affinity). For relationships based on marriage (“in-laws”), relatives within the first and second degree fall under the prohibition, including parents and children (first degree), as well as grandparents, grandchildren, sisters, and brothers (second degree). For relationships based on blood, the prohibition is even broader—reaching the third degree, which includes great-grandparents, great-grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.
For nepotism purposes, school board members are generally always considered public officials, with limited exceptions. A superintendent is considered a public official under the nepotism statute if he or she has final hiring authority (via DC (LOCAL)) for the employment position at issue. In the above scenario, the individual applying for employment with the district is the sister of a sitting school board member, which places her in the second degree of consanguinity with the board member – a public official. Therefore, it would be a violation of the nepotism statute for the District to hire the sister to the identified teaching position. If, however, as indicated above, the superintendent has been delegated final hiring authority for certified employees AND the district is located in a “small county,” which is defined as having a population of less than 35,000 people, the Attorney General has found that the school board member relative is not considered a public official and, thus, the hire is permissible. See Tex. Educ. Code § 11.1513(a), (f)-(g). Atty. Gen. Op. GA-123 (2003). For specific questions regarding nepotism laws, please contact your local school attorney.