Council members appeared to reach a consensus on changes to how the governing body appoints to boards and commissions. During a June 1, council work session, members discussed reworking the appointment process.
Under the existing policy, the city publishes an opening on a board or commission, such as the planning commission. Officials publicize the opening and accept applications. Applicants are interviewed by a panel which includes the Mayor, at least one city council person and a city staff member.
The Mayor nominates an applicant, and the council must then approve the appointment to the commission.
In the future, the appointment process the Mayor and two council members must unanimously agree to nominate a candidate to a board or commission.
The proposed changes mark the second time in a number of years that council has changed its rules of procedure to address the appointment process.
City officials changed Gardner’s appointment process in 2009.
Prior to that year, the Mayor appointed people with council consent. If the council opposed a nomination, the council was required to submit a written reason for the objection. If written rejection wasn’t submitted within a certain number of days, the Mayor’s nomination was appointed without council’s consent.
Mayor Chris Morrow said the governing body has made 31 appointments since the rules changed in 2009.
Of those 31 appointments, 26 were approved by a unanimous council. Three appointments were made over the objection of one council member. And last month, council members Rich Melton and Lee Moore opposed the appointments of former council member Heath Freeman and Adrianna Meder to the planning commission.
“It just seems to me that there hasn’t been a lot of issues with how the appointment process has worked,” Morrow said. “And it’s wildly different than how it was in 2009 when the Mayor could choose whatever process he wanted, didn’t have to include council members, didn’t interview, didn’t solicit applications.”
Though council agreed to move forward with proposed changes, several appeared reluctant.
Council member Steve Shute worried that allowing three people to make the decision could lead to political posturing.
“I just don’t think we want to have two council members with an agenda going after one candidate,” Shute said.
After a brief discussion, council members agreed that three members of the governing body must reach a unanimous decision on an applicant before an applicant will be brought forward for council approval.
Council member Lee Moore said he wasn’t concerned about a split decision.
He said he didn’t like being asked to vote on candidates for which he had limited information.
“I like to have things to work with in order to make an informed process,” Moore said.
Council members also debated whether to interview all or just some candidates.
“I personally think you should interview everybody,” council member Kristina Harrison said. “These are people who live in this community who are expressing an interest in serving.”
Council also discussed adding language that would limit city staff from participating in the interview process. However, under the current process, staff members – typically city administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee takes notes during interviews, but doesn’t offer input on candidates.
Council members decided a staff member could continue to participate in interviews as long as the staff member does not have a vote or say in which candidate is forwarded in the process.
The council will vote on proposed changes to the appointment process at a future meeting.
Council to make changes to appointment process