Los Lunas amends ordinance regarding nepotism and vacations

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The village of Los Lunas is reworking portions of its employee policy ordinance regarding nepotism, college-tuition reimbursement and vacation time.

A preliminary draft was reviewed by councilors at its meeting Thursday, and a copy will be posted on the village website before a public hearing is held.

In chapter six on nepotism, "relationships by consanguinity" are defined between parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or first cousin. Relationships by affinity include husband, wife, step-parent, step-child, in-laws, half brothers and sisters, as well as cohabiting partners.

The rule stipulates that no person shall be hired, promoted or directly supervised by an employee that is related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to the employee, but employees already in that position or those who become related after their initial hire will be allowed to continue employment as long as it doesn't adversely affect work performance.

"Employees already holding a position as of the effective date of this ordinance shall be allowed to continue in his/her position without regard to existing nepotism, and employees who become related within the third degree after initial hire may continue employment in his/her position without regard to existing nepotism so long as it does not create an adverse impact on work performance," the ordinance reads.

Third degree is defined as third generation relative such as great-grandparent or great-grandchild.

The mayor has hiring authority and any new hires must be approved by the council, said Christine Nardi, village human resources director.

Ultimately, the objective in any hiring situation is to hire the most qualified applicant, Nardi said.

Reimbursement for college tuition has been spelled out at length. It was previously only one sentence long.

"It's much more detailed," said Nardi. "I've had so many questions regarding tuition reimbursement. Mostly it came up as a budget question. We're tightening our belts and being much more accountable."

Only full-time village employees with at least six months on the job and no longer on probation are eligible. They must apply for reimbursement before enrolling in a course, and the line of study must pertain to the work they do for the village.

The request has to be approved by the department director and reviewed by the human resource manager.

The village will only reimburse tuition to a nationally or regionally accredited institutions in amounts up to rates the University of New Mexico charges for its hourly credit, and the employee's attendance can't interfere with job responsibilities. Approval is also based on budget considerations and can be denied.

The way reimbursement works is the employee pays out-of-pocket for their courses and when they successfully complete them, earning the credit or certificate, the village will reimburse them.

However, the employee must sign an understanding that if they resign or are terminated within a year of receiving reimbursement, they must repay the reimbursement they received and the village can withhold money from their last paycheck for repayment.

"Everything is per budget season and advanced approval prior to the June preliminary budget," Nardi said. "July 1 begins the new fiscal year."

In Chapter 10 regarding vacation time and holidays, the village has set limits on leave accrual.

Accumulated vacation time can be a budget liability, especially if more than one employee retires or resigns the same year, said Nardi.

"The village pays out the remaining vacation time and the payroll taxes for it, too," she said.

Employees with 10 or more years can now only accrue 272 hours annually. Any hours more than that will be dropped at the start of the new year.

Staff with six to 10 years of employment will lose anything more than 260 annual hours, and those with a year to six years on the job will lose any hours above 248.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a memorandum of agreement with Los Lunas Schools that commits the village to budget $35,000 for the operation and maintenance expenses of the high school pool. The pool is open to the public during the summer months.

• Approved a contract with engineers Parsons Brinckerhoff to develop a management plan for historic Route 66, which runs along Main Street from Don Pasqual to N.M. 47. The village will finance the contract with a $20,000 grant from federal Scenic Byways funding administered through the state. The plan will identify resources and how to revitalize Rt. 66 to benefit the village and tourism.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, the council:

• Approved a liquor license transfer from Becker Street Pub to Marisco's Alta Mar restaurant on Sun Ranch Loop in Los Lunas, and a beer and wine license for El Rancho de Valencia on Main Street. Both license applications received preliminary approval from the state alcohol and gaming division.

• Approved a re-plat of a two-acre parcel of land owned by Huning Ranch Partnership located behind Los Cerritos shopping center. The property was set aside for a drainage pond, but the Lowe's franchise had its own master drainage plan. The re-plat, along with a zone atlas amendment were approved to allow Huning Ranch Partnership to split the property and use half as a drainage pond, while preparing the other for sale.

• Appointed David Crawford to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a four-year term. Crawford volunteered to fill the vacancy when Phillip Jaramillo resigned.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.