One blog won’t cut it from Tuesday’s bizarre County Commission discussion that led to the unanimous vote to interview four people for county administrator.
It wasn’t an enthusiastic unanimous vote. More like a beat-down from Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. that Commissioners Holly Davis and Ruthie Davis Schlabach eventually gave in to.
A few thoughts:
— Several people asked me Wednesday whether Kitchen committed an ethical violation by inviting non-commissioners — District 2 Republican primary winner Diana Finegan and NPA Paul Grogan — to participate in the selection process, and that he did so by misleading commissioners into thinking this was their idea.
I’m not a lawyer, but I’m going to give that a solid no. There was no conflict of interest on Kitchen’s part, no financial gain. Being untruthful to your colleagues isn’t nice but it’s also not illegal.
Plus, despite the ugly and demeaning remarks from the chairman, the four finalists are basically the ones the five current commissioners wanted.
— I mentioned Wednesday how much Kitchen is a skilled politician. He never would have missed the opportunity that Davis and Schlabach had.
After Commissioner-elect Rebecca Bays said she would not participate because she thinks the new board should hire the administrator, Commissioner Scott Carnahan said he agreed with her and would support hiring an interim administrator before the new board takes office.
In politics, sometimes the only opening is a tiny crack in the door, and Carnahan provided it. Instead of jumping right in to support him, or even make a motion to stop the process, neither Davis nor Schlabach said a word.
Before long, Kitchen had reined Carnahan back into his way of thinking.
I know both Davis and Schlabach want to blame Kitchen for all this, but Carnahan tossed them a political softball and they whiffed.
— Bays declining to participate on the grounds that the process is flawed meant taking the wrath of Kitchen, who continued to badger her even after she walked away from the microphone.
“You have not been listening ma’am,” Kitchen said. “Don’t run off on me!”
To which Bays told Kitchen it’s “your leadership that I disagree with” on the hiring process. That’s pretty clear, right? If Kitchen is running the hiring process, Bays won’t participate.
Interesting position. I get her wanting to stand on principle, but that may mean also being left out of hiring the next administrator. And I’m not sure what message it sends her future colleagues.
— Finegan, not surprisingly, didn’t want to wait. “It worries me to delay when you have talent on the table,” she said. “They might not wait for you.”
Very legitimate point. One the consultant headhunter made as well. And that’s certainly a risk, though one could argue that this process is already such a trainwreck that we’re not losing anything by waiting.
— Here’s how the interviews will take place: The four finalists will interview with individual commissioners, 1-on-1, Monday, Sept. 26. These are one-hour interviews.
The next day, Sept. 27, they will have 15 minutes each to make a presentation during the public county commission meeting. Supposedly after that, the board will decide.
Let’s see, something is missing here. What can it be…oh yeah! The public. There is zero opportunity for the finalists to see the county, be introduced to leaders, sort of get a feel for the place.
We’re hiring the most important non-elected public job in Citrus County and it’s being rammed through with no public involvement, other than a few minutes at the county commission meeting.
Here’s an idea: Interview the four candidates and select two to vet in the community for a few days, then set a special meeting to make the final call. Give those two a chance to meet department directors, community leaders and one pushy blogger.
Commissioners tell me they haven’t heard from citizens about any of the candidates other than Tobey Phillips, despite the applications being publicly available for weeks.
That means one of two things: The public doesn’t care who the next county administrator is, or they’re indifferent to the county commission itself.
— Finally, let’s all take a breath. Kitchen has a way of making tornadoes appear out of the blue sky, but I suggest we move past that for now. Yeah, the logistics seem, um, challenging, but we may as well play it out and hope for the best.
But I have to say: This is no way to run an efficient government. Let’s hope our new administrator, whoever that is, can help. Cuz we sure need it.
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