Call for a Higher Standard of Government Service
Columbia County is appointing people without interviewing candidates and appointing people without reviewing track record.
August 9, 2018
Thank You To All Who Serve
I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who offers their time for public service. Our government, and our community, relies on people to step up and participate. These are important roles and I think we need to appoint the best available candidates. And I want to be clear that I’m grateful to all candidates, even those that I don’t think are the best candidate.
Skipping the Interview
At a special Public Safety Committee meeting on August 8, the committee passed a resolution to appoint a new County Coroner. Supervisor Peter Cipkowski urged the committee to interview the candidates, but several members of the committee stressed that they were already familiar with one of the candidates. But knowing someone is not the same as knowing that someone is the best candidate. After 5 or 10 minutes of discussion, the decision was made. Minutes later, the resolution came before the full board. There was no discussion, just a roll call vote, and the resolution passed—appointing a coroner with no professional medical experience.
The Board missed an opportunity to vet the candidates and demonstrate a thoughtful process of identifying the best candidate. The Board should have spent more time reviewing Bernadette Powis for Coroner. She has worked as a nurse for over 35 years. She worked in a high-intensity hospital, prescribed medicine, and diagnosed patients. She learned to communicate in an emotionally supportive way while simultaneously looking for and processing subtle pieces of information, all in a high-stakes environment. Her broad and comprehensive medical and psychiatric background form a solid foundation to be Columbia County’s coroner.
This nominee has been absent or late a third of the time over the last year. That gives me pause.
April 11, 2018 statement against resolution 149
The August Coroner appointment wasn’t the first time I saw a rushed appointment process. At the March County Government Committee, there was a last minute proposal to appoint a member to the Planning Board. At the meeting, I was told the appointment is time sensitive because the Planning Board was having trouble getting a quorum. With no time to research, I voted in favor because I understand that the planning board is integral to the proper functioning of business and of development. However, upon further research, I found that the nominee had been absent or late one-third of the meetings over the prior year—according to the official minutes. I didn’t feel confident that this appointment is the proper solution to our quorum problem and that full board, I voted no.
The resolution passed by one vote. Watch the Planning Board appointment debate.