Select and Appoint
I supported changing Manzanita’s appointment process back in August and I supported fixing the glitches in the new process this January. Prior to 2022 it was solely the Mayor’s purview to appoint the members of any board, commission or committee. The Mayor also had all the responsibility to remove appointees. It made sense back in the days when it was like pulling teeth to get people to serve, but those days are gone.
A couple of things happened in 2022 that precipitated the direction taken by the previous Council.
A member of the Planning Commission’s term was ending. Mayor Scott placed a reappointment for that position on the City Council’s consent agenda but Council disagreed that such an important role should be a reappointment with no discussion. The Mayor agreed and the process of how the City appoints members to committees, commissions and boards began to change.
When the STR standing Committee was forming, people applied for positions and Mayor Scott met with Councilor Spegman to review all the applications before making appointments. The Mayor chose Spegman who had different views than his own but they came to consensus about their picks. This attempt to change things moved the ball along but didn’t go far enough. At the same time, City Manager Aman was researching the appointment process in other cities.
It was the clear intent of the former Mayor and Council to remove the discretionary power of appointment and removal from the Mayor to the Council. To me, that’s the direction to head, away from centralized decision making to consensus among equals.
It doesn’t matter to me if it’s the old mayor or the new mayor or some future mayor appointing people or removing them, it’s a bad look and gives too much control about too many things to one person. I supported an attempt to blind the current process, even though our community is small and it would be easy for some folks to figure out whose applications they were reading. Appearances matter in a town as divided as this one.
When it looks like friends pick friends or that there’s “an old boys” club you have to belong to in order to serve, the community suffers and mistrust spreads faster than head lice in a preschool naproom. People feel they can’t trust the process. They have the perception that things aren’t fair. It doesn’t matter whether what people think is true or not. They feel itchy and they’re going to need the special shampoo and a little bitty comb.
The previous Mayor and Council adopted the City’s Rules of Procedures for Council Meetings back in August about the time three spots would be coming up on the Planning Commission at the start of the new year.
The appointment process moved from the Mayor to a select committee but there were some flaws in the wording. That happens in technical and legal writing quite often because words are tricky beasts. Over the summer the select committee did the work as it was spelled out in the August Rules of Procedure.
The select committee was to present a slate of candidates “to the mayor for consideration” (my italics from August Rules and Procedures).
There is no mandatory language giving clear guidance for what would happen if a mayor rejected a slate of candidates in the August Rules of Procedure. So I read the Manzanita City Charter.
It reads, “The Mayor shall appoint a committee provided for under the rules of the Council.” The Rules from August just say the Mayor gets a list of candidates for consideration not what the mayor can do if they don’t like the list.
In the August Rules it also says that, “all appointed persons may be removed by the Mayor or a majority of city council” but it doesn’t say what happens if the Mayor and the majority of Council disagree. Awkward.
Using the new process for the first time to appoint three new Planning Commissioners with new and newish council members and a new mayor at the first Council Meeting of the year, the new Mayor did end up rejecting the slate. No matter what she was going to do people on one side or the other were going to be mad.
So after the January meeting, Council began tweaking the appointment process further.
The Rules of Procedure are easier to amend and update than is the Charter. The Charter can only be changed by a citywide vote and it takes time, resources and a whole lot of cash money to do it. Our Charter is a hot mess. I’ve read it a bunch of times. It wouldn’t be an easy in and out kind of revision to do the whole deal.
On February 8, 2023 Council amended the August rules. Here’s what’s changed:
The Mayor and Council will appoint two Councilors instead of one for the select committee.
Those two Councilors will choose a third member of the select committee from the committee that has the opening(s).
The City Manager will be a non-voting member.
Applications will be posted on the City’s website.
All qualified applicants will be interviewed.
A select committee member will present a slate to the Mayor with a ranked list of all qualified candidates.
So no one is left hanging again, the mayor or someone from the select committee will contact the applicants and give them a heads up before the appointment takes place at the next City Council meeting.
As for the actual appointing, the amended rules now read, “The Mayor shall make appointment (s) based on the selection committee’s recommendation or elect to appoint candidates from the qualified list.”
The use of the mandatory shall means that the mayor has to use the select committee’s recommendation or appoint from the qualified list. So there’s that. But…
What the amended rules don’t say is what happens, if the Mayor doesn’t like the slate but there’s not an extra list of qualified candidates to choose from? Also, when choosing from the qualified list, does the Mayor have to go by the ranking in appointing candidates? If the Mayor doesn’t have to use ranking to choose, why is there ranking of candidates to begin with?
The select committee’s slate of recommendations will be part of the record
The last change is in removals. It now says that “all appointed persons may be removed by a majority vote of City Council” not just the Mayor.
One thing Council learned recently is that appointments for the Budget Committee are different and we’ve been doing them wrong for a long time. ORS 294.414 requires the entire Council to vote to appoint Budget Committee members. That’s Oregon State Law. It will be interesting to see how this will all work at the next meeting. Council agreed to use part of the process from the Appointment Rules–all the way down to where the appointment is made when the Council will vote.
We’ll also get a chance to see how the regular appointment process works for a new vacancy on the Planning Commission. Some of the changes Council has made already (like posting the applications for the community to see) make sense to me. I didn’t think it was such a good idea before they did it, but now I see that it lets people know more about the background and experience of the people chosen to fill important committees and commissions.
Maybe you knew more than one of the people applying for the Planning Commission and you wondered why some people were interviewed and some were not, or maybe you didn’t know any of the applicants and wondered about their backgrounds and how they were chosen. Maybe you had questions about the make up of the select committee.
I think Council is trying to clean the windows to let us see inside. And, kids? We might need more Windex.
Kim Rosenberg firstname.lastname@example.org