Thursday, November 21, 2013

Secrecy around Harry Jones' replacement

The secrecy around the hiring of Mecklenburg County's next manager could soon reach a new high -- or low.

First, county commissioners blocked certain commissioners from knowing anything about the candidates seeking to replace the ousted Harry Jones. Now, commissioners won't commit to inviting the public in on the conversation, even after the field has been cut to three or so finalists.

They should. Mecklenburg's manager fills one of the most important roles in this community, overseeing about 4,000 employees and a budget of well over $1 billion. The manager works for the commissioners and ultimately the public, and his or her decisions and recommendations have a big effect on residents, from property taxes to school funding.

Exposing the candidates to the public is good for the public, the county and the finalists. The process prompts a thorough digging into the candidates' backgrounds and records, while giving the ultimate winner a valuable take on the pulse of the community.

The Observer's David Perlmutt reported Tuesday that the full board met with the county's search firm in closed session, apparently to talk about three to five finalists. It would be the first time the full board had seen the search committee's slate of finalists.

Commissioners will now winnow the field further. Before they cut the field to less than three, those candidates should meet the public. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board arranged such meetings before hiring Heath Morrison as superintendent, and the City Council did so before hiring Ron Carlee as city manager. In both cases, those public meetings were enlightening.

The county's human resources director, Chris Peek, says the board hasn't decided whether to invite the public to meetings to get to know the finalists.

"That could take more time," Peek said. "The city and school board had a number of forums with the community invited to meet the top two or three candidates in the same room. The board has not decided what they want that process to look like."

Here's what it should look like: Inclusive. Open. Responsive to the public.

-- Taylor Batten

Read more here: