City Council Passes Anti-Nepotism Policy

ryan vienna and john ebiner discuss nepotism policy
Councilmembers Ryan Vienna and John Ebiner discuss the introduction of anti-nepotism policy. Photo: Screenshot taken from YouTube.

Editor’s note: The following story involves the mention of Isabel and Phil Ebiner, who serve as the managing editor and a contributor for SDCP, respectively. Neither Isabel nor Phil had any input on the following story, did not receive any advance reading of this story and both were completely removed from the reporting and publication process. Isabel and Phil were involved in no way with the release of this report and will have no power to change, suggest, inform, add or remove any of its content.

By Christian Shepherd

In a 3-2 vote, San Dimas City Council adopted a new policy banning relatives of the city council or city manager from being appointed to any paid or unpaid city commission, committee or board.

Mayor Emmett Badar and Councilmembers Ryan Vienna and Eric Weber voted yes, while Councilmembers Denis Bertone and John Ebiner voted no.

The vote took place during a special meeting on Thursday, April 8. Ebiner offered an alternative motion that would require applicants to disclose the relationship and city council members to recuse themselves from the interview process.

The alternative motion failed 2-3, with Ebiner and Bertone voting yes and Badar, Vienna and Weber voting no.

Many members of the community wrote to the city to express concern that Ebiner was using his position as a city council member to place family members in city commissions.

“Some of the comments were suggesting that an individual councilmember had the ability to appoint someone to a commission or something, which isn’t true,” Bertone said. “We as individual councilmembers have no authority to appoint anyone for anything. It takes this entire council to make appointments.”

Much of the conversation regarding the new anti-nepotism policy centered around Phil and Isabel Ebiner, son and daughter-in-law to Councilmember John Ebiner. 

Prior to the policy being adopted, Phil joined the Housing Element Subcommittee and Isabel was an applicant for the Parks and Recreation Commission, which has been unable to meet since November of 2020, largely because of unfilled positions.

Before the discussion about nepotism began, Vienna asked Councilmember Ebiner if he was going to recuse himself from the discussion because of the potential conflict of interest. 

Councilmember Ebiner did not answer the question directly, instead choosing to directly address the accusations of potential nepotism.

“What I want to do is make sure we understand that what we are talking about is not nepotism,” Ebiner said.

Councilmember Ebiner then read the following definition of nepotism from a large, unabridged Webster’s dictionary:

“Favoritism shown to nephews and other relatives, the practice of appointing relatives to situations of amulument disregard of the claim of others better fitted for the office.”

Note: Merriam-Webster currently defines nepotism as “favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship.”

Councilmember Ebiner said the fact that the positions in question were unpaid and that the council would decide the position based on the merit of all the candidates disqualified this as a nepotism concern.

Ebiner said he offered to recuse himself from the discussion that included the potential appointment of Isabel, but one of the concerns raised was the uncomfortable position that councilmembers and staff are put in when they have to vote for or against a fellow councilmember’s relative.

“We have a working relationship that we need to maintain,” Weber said. 

Badar said there were many times when his family members wanted to join a commission or committee, but he always told them no because of his position and how it did not “pass the smell test.”


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