Update: In my subsequent post, I examine the Arnold police hiring process and some other issues. I have updated this post’s introduction and title to reflect my current understanding.
Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey, who was recently found to be selling items from his personal businesses to the city, engaged in another unethical act by having a relative hired as a police officer in 2011. According to the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC), “The penalty for nepotism is automatic forfeiture of office.” This applies to “any public officer or employee,” not just elected officials, who “name or appoint” relatives. This is spelled out in the Missouri Constitution. Does this apply here?
Todd Watson married Shockey’s daughter, Laura, in February 2010. He thus became the chief’s son-in-law.
A year later, Shockey went before the city council and asked for a new step in the city’s pay scale. This step would allow him to hire a police “cadet” who had yet to attend the police academy (see meeting minutes here (p. 8) and here (p. 5)). This would allow the cadet to earn a paycheck while attending the academy. If you watch the meeting videos, you will see Shockey stating that he was having great difficulty finding good applicants for police jobs. But he also said the city is getting good applicants that have not had academy training, and there’s no place to put them. He said a cadet hire would allow the city to groom the person “our way.” He said “I don’t know if we’re ever gonna use it” at the first meeting, and “we’re not gonna use it all the time” at the second meeting, but that it would be nice to have on the books (February 17 meeting at the 85:26 mark, March 3 meeting at 28:48). The council approved the chief’s request on March 3.
Five months later, the city hired its first cadet, according to information from the city of Arnold. His name? Todd Watson. Since the new pay step was approved, the city has hired 10 officers. How many were hired as cadets? Only one. Apparently the difficulty in finding good applicants went away pretty quickly. Watson become a commissioned officer in April 2012.
Son-in-law falls well within the MEC’s definition of a nepotism hire (relative within the 4th degree by blood or affinity). But not only
did Shockey hire a was Shockey’s relative hired, but Shockey pushed for the creation of a whole new position in the city’s pay scale for him, one that allowed Watson to collect a paycheck while attending his required training. Since Watson is the only cadet to be hired by the city, it would appear that the cadet position was created especially for him. I don’t think most officers get that luxury, although a cadet hiring program is not unheard of. Watson remains a city cop and can be seen in this photo.
The Arnold regime, including Mayor Ron Counts, shrugged off the news (first reported on this blog) that Shockey’s business dealings with the city were illegal. How will it respond to this more serious act? If it’s anything like last time, the city will say they all knew about the relationship, but nobody thought it was illegal, and besides, Watson is a great cop. Alternatively, maybe the city will throw Shockey under the bus and claim that nobody knew that he’s related to Watson. That would be the more interesting outcome.