A county commissioner response defending the controversial bypass appointment of a local politician to planning director left primary questions of public concern unaddressed.
The director of planning plays an instrumental role in shaping the character of our special islands (from sprawl to suburbanization) and it requires specialized expertise. Taxpayers are entitled to know why a connected politician should be entitled to waive minimum job and experience qualifications, bypass an openly competitive selection process and then go on to receive a double salary for both her elected partisan position and the non-partisan staff appointment at the same time for the better part of a year (with salaries combining for an annual rate of over $200,000). Not only is this troubling in principle, it also appears to violate the county’s own employee ethics code regarding conflicts of interest.
Why in the world would the board not allow qualified candidates to apply for this critical position? Why not publicly post and interview at least one experienced candidate before handing a permanent appointment to an individual with no related experience or qualifications?
Rather than responding defensively to public concerns, the board should recognize that this situation does not sit right for most fair-minded citizens, regardless of political party affiliation. Commissioner Bacon’s initial instincts were correct in rejecting this questionable appointment and this board does generally good work. Whomever pushed for this permanent bypass appointment should acknowledge the problematic precedent and reopen it to garner full public confidence. This would eliminate lingering concerns of political nepotism and special interest influence.
If staffing recruitment is truly so dire for Island County that the only person invited to apply for this powerful director position — out of an unexplored national pool of talent — was a local politician with no related experience, then we should have a public conversation about that with assistance from the state auditor.