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Black Diamond council frustrated by mayor’s tactics
An old issue of contention arose between the new mayor of Black Diamond and the City Council when mayor Dave Gordon made appointments to the Planning Commission without the council’s involvement.
Out of a group of six applications for two vacant positions on the seven-person commission, Gordon selected Brian Weber and Gary Davis at the council’s Feb. 20 meeting. Gordon told the council that after “long consideration” he chose the men because they are active in the community and frequent council meetings.
When it came time to confirm the individuals, each council member voiced his or her concern over the lack of interviews that took place.
“I don’t have a problem with the people you’ve selected, but I don’t know them,” Councilwoman Janie Edelman said at the meeting. “I haven’t spoken to either one of them about this position or what makes them qualified.”
City code allows the mayor to make appointments and the council to confirm or deny the selection(s). The council had disagreements with former Mayor Rebecca Olness about the process, ultimately compromising with an interview committee that consisted of the mayor and one representative each from the council and commission.
Gordon told The Reporter that he disagreed with Olness’ decision.
“I choose not to do that out of respect for the office; out of my diligence to get to know who I’m appointing,” he said. “I’m not just going to give away my right to appoint… It is open government when the mayor appoints.”
At the meeting, Councilwoman Tamie Deady said she had contacted Gordon about her concerns prior to the meeting. She said Gordon’s tactics tell citizens that the mayor has already made his choices and that applying is a waste of time.
“I was just mad – and am still a little angry — that he didn’t at least come forward to the council to say this is what I am doing,” Deady told The Reporter days after the meeting. “He just said, ‘I am appointing these two people and you guys affirm.’”
Edelman echoed Deady’s concerns at the meeting, saying the mayor should let the council “do our homework.” She said the new process eliminated the council’s ability to conduct interviews.
“To give this to us without any background information just isn’t fair to the council,” she said. “ We can’t do our job.”
The city’s Planning Commission gets more visibility than other city commissions because of its role in long range planning and growth, which has been a contentious issue over the last few years. Gordon said the result is a “tug of war” between the various sides that are pro-development, against development or, as he feels, hoping for “responsible development.” Gordon said by selecting his own appointees, he gets the opportunity to shape the composition of the committee to be in line with his own policies.
“That is the whole point; this is the executive branch trying to leave their mark,” Gordon told The Reporter. “I have to do my own homework. You can always delegate responsibility, but out of respect, I have to do it right.”
Gordon told The Reporter that he contacted both men and has spoken to them before and after council meetings. He also noted that his appointee doesn’t have to come from applicants.
“I can appoint somebody for whatever reason I choose to,” Gordon told The Reporter. “I could pick my friends, but I might have a challenge getting my friends appointed. That’s the check and balance of the whole system.”
At the meeting, Gordon said he understood the council’s concerns but believes the law is written as such to give the executive branch an opportunity to influence the committee.
“Could you imagine the president of the United States asking (a) congressman to come in and interview a candidate for the Supreme Court position and they vet them together and then go in and then go and confirm,” he said. “It would never happen.”
At the meeting, Councilman Ron Taylor said it is less efficient when the mayor doesn’t take the council’s input into consideration for vetting the applicants. He added that confirmation hearings should be in the public, rather than as personal interviews.
The council unanimously agreed to delay the confirmation vote until after a public interview process took place on March 6.
Deady said the council and mayor are not yet in sync.
“We are so off of the page,” Deady said at the meeting. “It’s wasting more time on getting people appointed to the Planning Commission.”
Weber told The Reporter that he knew the council needed to go through its own interview process and that he didn’t expect to be confirmed on Feb. 20.
“The council is going to have to learn some of his quirks and he will have to learn some of theirs,” Weber said. “We are only a couple months in … there are going to be some growing pains. That is just human nature.”
Weber said at the meeting that he looked forward to the interview process.
“Maybe not to the Clarence Thomas level,” he said. “But I’m honored to get the appointment.”