Why would someone run for office if they didn't want to perform the duties of the office they sought? It's beyond me, but I've seen three examples in recent weeks and I don't like the trend. It's no wonder government seems to not move, even with changes of people holding office.
Let's begin with the School Board. I was talking an education story last week wherein a high school student was expelled for having a squirt gun at school. This high schooler is now out for a year unless someone with some semblance of common sense intervenes. While I was railing on the inability of administrators to distinguish between an actual threat and one perceived by someone with an irrational fear of firearms, or a policy that requires that professionals check their judgment in favor of a Zero Tolerance stance that requires blind compliance by them, I was interrupted by a text from a Brevard board member. For clarity, this was not a Brevard student.
The member stated that the board was powerless to act in such circumstances unless the parents appealed the disciplinary decision. Number one, I was appalled at the assertion that a board member believed he could not act to better a situation for a student based on a policy that the board created and implemented. It was also concerning that the member was willing to allow improper discipline to stand for this student when there was clearly no threat to anyone in the mere possession of a squirt gun. The third concern was that at the very least the member should have been motivated to change a policy that allowed for such a miscarriage of discipline in this student's scholastic career.
Also last week the City of Palm Bay rightly reconsidered the contract of the City Manager. They owed him this review for the errant belief at his hiring that his private sector executive experience was somehow inferior to public sector experience. Because of that error they started his pay approximately $50k lower than comparable positions at similar locations, or even with Palm Bay.
The council awarded a good percentage of this difference in this reevaluation, but the city received nothing in return. I believe this raise was justified, but at the very least the city should have secured a term certain, say three to five years, of additional service in exchange for the raise.
The councilman who contacted me about the specifics exhibited fear that asking for anything in return would open the door to other demands by the City Manager such as a golden parachute if he were to be removed from the job. This assertion was ridiculous, another excuse to not do the job at hand. And can they simply not say no to such a request?
As it stands now the City Manager has a raise and is potentially in consideration for the open Brevard County Manager position. He would be a good choice for that job and the Palm Bay council shirked its responsibility to secure his services through the county's search and selection period. They could very well be going through the search process because of this failure. The councilman can not see this failure and neglect of responsibility to do the best for his city and it may cost them dearly. This is especially true in light of events since the original draft of this column. The mayor has exceeded his authority in at least one circumstance and is under pressure and a potential investigation by council. The City Attorney has assisted the mayor and caused the council to hire outside council by that act. It seems several in Palm Bay do not understand their jobs.
Lastly we have the Brevard County Commission over the past several weeks deciding to go with a search firm to replace the exiting County Manager. This decision will cost between $10k and $20k for the firm to get its work done. They will advertise in the usual places like league of cities and counties web sites and publications. While seeking applicants from outside the public sector is expected, the firm asserted this week that public sector experience is essential to the job. The search firm’s public statements on qualifications for the job are not in compliance with what at least one commissioner has requested.
It's not the firm’s role to determine job requirements. That is the role of the County Commission. The search firm should be expected to seek candidates from both the public and private sectors. Their answer to that in last week's public comments was inadequate. They have no standard mechanism for reaching private sector executives or retirees that may have the skills to manage Brevard.
Here again we have an elected body handing off its responsibility to a hired hand and, given the parameters the hired hand established, getting a severely limited selection of candidates for interview by the board.
In each of these cases we elect capable people to these positions. In each of these situations these usually competent people are performing less than competently. Is it that the wheels of a large government machine are difficult to set in motion? Is it that they are intimidated by the responsibility they sought and now have? Is it because they are less than qualified for the public job they hold? Whatever the reason, the people of each of these offices are being underserved. It’s time for the elected officials to step up and do the jobs they were elected or give them up to someone who will do the job!