Our Opinion: Void improper closed session actions

Don’t end botched process with another error

Jefferson City’s process of choosing a financial officer has been an exercise in dysfunctional government.

Let us be clear. We have no quarrel with the appointee, Bill Betts. Our objection is to a procedure that was so inept, it is difficult to find any step that was done right.

Let’s identify some specific errors, including: a failure to conduct due diligence for an appointee who resigned before taking office; a superfluous “Help Wanted” ad that attracted dozens of candidates for a post that has been abandoned; and a potentially illegal closed meeting to discuss a position rather than personnel.

The culmination of this farce was the city’s appointment to a position that does not exist, assistant city administrator.

To summarize events:

• The city conducted a national search to fill a finance director vacancy created by the retirement of the late Steve Schlueter. The city selected Robin Milne from among 19 applicants. Before taking office, she withdrew in the face of revelations that she was in the process of paying a civil court judgment to satisfy credit card debt.

• A subsequent national search for a finance director drew 73 candidates, narrowed down by the city to a number of finalists. As it turns out, their applications were unnecessary and their hopes futile.

• The city conducted a closed session to discuss personnel, but apparently discussed creation of the new position of assistant city administration to replace the post of finance director. The topic — a restructuring of city government offices — clearly is topic for open session and a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.

• Betts has been appointed to a post that does not exist. Action to create the position is scheduled to be introduced at the Feb. 4 City Council meeting.

An added concern is whether creation of the assistant city administrator position contradicts the intent of the City Charter. The framers of the Charter designed a framework for municipal government that vests power in the elected mayor and council, not the appointed city administrator.

Is adding an assistant to that office consistent with the Charter? That’s a discussion properly heard in open session.

We call on Jefferson City government to void any inappropriate actions taken in closed session.

This process has been botched. Let’s not end it with an errant, potentially illegal, action.

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