Our view: Compromise, hire best candidate

Published 12:39 am Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Members of the Covington County Commission are having a difficult time naming an administrator to take the helm when current administrator Brenda Petty retires at the end of this calendar year.

More specifically, commissioners are having a difficult time making a decision within the scope of Alabama’s Open Meetings Act, which requires deliberations about appointed positions to happen in public meetings.

On Tuesday, commissioners interviewed five candidates in an open meeting. They also set the starting salary at $62,500 plus benefits.

But they took did not say how they will proceed from here.

Previously, commissioners had offered the job to someone, been turned down, and set up parameters for applications and hiring, all outside of a public meeting.

The Open Meetings Act requires any deliberation by a quorum to take place in an open meeting. An obvious way to solve their understandable problem of not wanting to deliberate in public is to appoint a committee to make a hiring recommendation to the full body.

Under normal circumstances, most governing bodies would delegate responsibility to the chairman, but it is obvious that this chairman and these commissioners have gotten crossways.

That most of the commissioners intend to block chairman Bill Godwin’s input in the process was evident by both barbed comments, and by actions taken Tuesday.

For instance, Commissioner Harold Elmore asked candidates about their abilities to work with others.

“Some of them might be hard to get along with, like maybe the chairman,” he said.

The desire to keep Godwin out of the process was made further obvious when commissioners voted unanimously – before they had even decided how they would make a hiring decision – to have a committee of two commissioners, Carl Turman and Kenneth Northey, review the administrator’s performance and make recommendations about possible increases in pay six months after the new administrator takes office.

The county has five solid applicants for the job in question. For the best decision for all of the county, we would advocate having the chairman and a commissioner serve as a two-person committee to make a hiring recommendation to the larger group. This would allow a representative of the commission and the chairman to hash out whatever their differences are, and, hopefully, make a compromise decision to hire the person who would do the best job, not a person who would necessarily be loyal to one side or against the other. The person hired will be responsible for a $20 million budget, and the administrator traditionally has been commissioners’ go-to person for what they can and cannot do.

The commission chairman should not be cut out of the process, but neither should commissioners. It is past time for both sides to behave like responsible leaders and work together.