KBS Reference Desk: Nepotism

Q: I’m a board member and my husband’s niece has applied for a teaching position for next school year. Can the district hire her?   

A: Yes, because the applicant is the board member’s niece by marriage, the relation is of the third degree by affinity, and therefore, not governed by the nepotism prohibition found in Texas Government Code section 573.041.   

For nepotism purposes, a public official of a school district is a member of the school board or an officer of the school district. Tex. Gov’t Code § 573.001(3). Section 573.041 prohibits a public official from appointing, confirming the appointment of, or voting for the appointment or confirmation 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 by blood within the third degree or marriage within the second degree. In other words, an individual related to a board member within a prohibited degree either by marriage or blood, may not be hired by the board or the superintendent without violating the nepotism prohibition, subject to exceptions detailed below. Following is a chart summarizing the prohibited degrees of relation.   

CONSANGUITY (Blood Relations): Employment is prohibited if the public official is the prospective employee’s:   

First Degree Parent/Child 

Second Degree Grandparent/Grandchild/Sister/Brother 

Third Degree Great-Grand-Parent/Great-Grandchild/Aunt/Uncle/Niece/Nephew  

AFFINITY (Marriage Relations): Employee is prohibited if the:  

Public official’s spouse is the prospective employee OR  

Public official’s spouse or the prospective employee’s spouse is the public official’s:   

First Degree Parent/Child 

Second Degree Grandparent/Grandchild/Sister/Brother  

As depicted above, in this scenario, a board member’s husband’s niece is relation by affinity, marriage relationship, of the third degree and is outside the prohibited degree of relation. Therefore, the district could proceed with hiring the applicant.   

There are limited exceptions to the nepotism prohibition for board members. If the district is in a “small county,” with a population of less than 35,000 people, a “public official” for nepotism purposes does not include a school board trustee when the superintendent has hiring authority and is filling the position. Tex. Educ. Code § 11.1513(a), (f)-(g). The “continuous employment exception,” also allows an individual related to a board member to continue employment if the individual was employed for either: (1) thirty days if the board member was appointed or (2) six months if the board member was elected. Tex. Gov’t Code § 573.062(a)(2). Finally, be aware that temporary substitutes are not subject to nepotism prohibitions.   

The consequences for an intentional or knowing violation of the nepotism statute includes criminal charges, punishable as a misdemeanor that carries a fine of $100-$1,000. Tex. Gov’t Code § 573.084. Additionally, a board member who violates the nepotism law may be removed from office and no compensation may be paid to an ineligible employee. Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 573.081-.083. 

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