Lawmakers are attempting to chip away at a nepotism law to ensure the new Louisiana State Police superintendent's son can keep his new law enforcement job.
State law prevents an immediate family member of an agency head from being employed at the same agency, but it grandfathers in the employee if he or she has worked there for at least a year before the relative ascended to the leadership position.
Interim Superintendent Kevin Reeves' son Kaleb applied to join the Louisiana State Police more than two years ago and was accepted into the training academy about six months ago. He graduated from the academy earlier this month.
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When Kaleb Reeves applied to follow in his father's footsteps, there was no indication that his dad would end up being his boss. Kevin Reeves was appointed to the position of top cop, at least temporarily, after Col. Mike Edmonson abruptly stepped aside last month amid investigations into questionable overtime charges and out-of-state travel involving high-ranking troopers.
State Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, is sponsoring a bill that would amend the ethics rule, shrinking the grandfather period from one year to four months for civil service employees in State Police. The nepotism rules would remain the same for other public agencies.
"I'm not trying to circumvent the spirit of the law, but at the same time this is one of those unintended consequences of the law that is punishing two people for trying to do the right thing," McFarland said. "There was no way Kevin Reeves or his son could have known this would happen five months ago or a year ago that this would happen."
The bill passed out of the House Governmental Affairs Committee without objection on Wednesday and next heads to the full House for consideration.
Kevin Reeves said he was grateful for efforts to allow his son to continue pursuing his career.
"I'm incredibly proud of my son for wanting to follow in my foot steps and live a life of service," he said. "Obviously, I'm a father first before I'm anything, so I'm going to try to support him and make sure he's successful."
But Reeves promised that his son would not receive special treatment, and any decisions about disciplinary action, transfers and promotions would be run through his chief of staff.
"They've taken me out of the loop," he said. "As long as he works for Louisiana State Police, he will be treated as every other employee in Louisiana State Police."
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a criminal justice watchdog group in New Orleans, said the proposed exception appears appropriate.
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"I think it would be an injustice to force either Superintendent Reeves' son to resign or to force the father to decline a promotion to superintendent when this was not circumstances created by their planning," he said. "This was totally unanticipated. But this is a just and proper solution."
But Goyeneche said he was hopeful the Legislature would either add a sunset to the bill or go back and change the grandfathering period back to one year after this year's legislative session. "It's not in the public's best interest to make it a permanent provision in Louisiana law," Goyeneche said.
McFarland said the exception makes sense for the State Police because it could happen every time a new governor is sworn in and given a chance to appoint new leadership. The police superintendent has to be chosen from within the ranks, according to Louisiana law.
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The current nepotism laws have had little impact in preventing public agency heads from working with their immediate family. Edmonson's brother Paul is a command inspector, who was unaffected by the laws because he'd worked at the agency for more than a year when Mike Edmonson was tapped for superintendent.
Goyeneche noted that the intent of the law is to prevent agency heads from being able to influence the hiring of their kin.