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July 20, 2014
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Publisher’s Notebook: Does short-term commission appointment need so many steps?

I’m not a fan of government committees.

They typically muddy things and are often used as scapegoats for leaders who can’t or won’t make decisions on their own.

Such is the case with this ongoing effort to find someone willing to sit on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for the last five months of the year.

Longtime (and I mean a really longtime) county Commissioner Doug Robertson announced about a month ago that he will step down from the three-member commission at the end of this month. He’s got some personal issues to address and just didn’t think he could put in the time it takes to serve the balance of his four-year term.

Three candidates have filed to fulfill Robertson’s final two years (through 2016) on the commission, and voters will choose one in November.

Until then the two remaining commissioners — Susan Morgan and Joe Laurance — are hoping to find someone willing to keep Robertson’s seat warm the last five months of the year (Aug. 1 through Jan. 4) until a new commissioner takes office.

That’s where the committee comes in. According to Morgan and Laurance, anyone interested in serving as interim commissioner has until Monday to apply. So far they have received applications from former county Commissioner Mike Winters, Umpqua resident Chuck Warner, Roseburg resident Buzz Long, real estate broker Rich Raynor, former Community Cancer Center director Mel Cheney, former Myrtle Creek Postmaster Ken Brouillard, retired property manager Richard Weckerly and former restaurateur Delores Spencer.

Once the deadline passes, a citizen panel — appointed by the two commissioners — will review the applications and make a recommendation to the two commissioners who will, in turn, make a decision Aug. 13.

I know — say what?

My guess is that by Monday there won’t be more than 10 applications to review, so you would think the two commissioners could review them without the need for a citizen panel.

We elected them to make decisions, not punt to a “citizen panel.”

Besides, I’ll bet Morgan and Laurance have a pretty good idea whom they’d like to sit with the next five months anyway, so why not get it done with?

In fact, they could have avoided it altogether by simply inviting Tim Freeman to join the party early. Freeman was elected in June to replace Laurance and will take office in January. He could simply fulfill the balance of Robertson’s term, and by the time Laurance leaves in January, voters will have elected a permanent replacement.

Problem solved.

I bumped into Freeman earlier this week and he said he hadn’t applied for the appointment, but sounded as if he might have stepped up if asked by the two commissioners. My guess is that he just doesn’t feel like going through a dog and pony show that requires an interview from a yet-to-be-appointed citizen panel.

I wonder if the commissioners will need a citizen panel to appoint the citizen panel? Seems to me they could appoint a commissioner in the time it will take to appoint a panel of citizens who have enough time on their hands to review eight to 10 applications for a post that will only last five months.

Not sure how you find enough citizens who will have an ability to render an objective opinion for an appointment to a political seat, anyway.

So far they’ve done a good job of making this process a lot more complicated than it needed to be. The law allows the two commissioners a ton of flexibility in making an appointment.

They could have simply agreed to choose someone and vote on it.

Morgan: “I move to appoint Jeff Ackerman to the commission.”

Laurance: “Jeff Ackerman’s not on the list. He’s too busy with his chickens and hates meetings.”

Morgan: “OK. I move to appoint Tim Freeman to the commission. He was elected anyway, so he may as well get started now.”

Laurance: “I second that.”

Morgan: “All in favor, say aye.”

Laurance: “Aye.”

Morgan: “Motion carries two to nothing. Welcome to the commission, Tim.”

Morgan: “Next item on the agenda is a proposed chicken ordinance. Is Ackerman here?”

If Freeman isn’t an option, I think Mike Winters is a perfect appointment, just in case I’m appointed to the citizen panel and have a say-so. He’s already served on the commission and knows the lay of the land, which will be a huge plus since there will be only five months to learn everyone’s name and where the restrooms are (tell me it’s not one of the first questions you ask when you start a new job).

The idea of an interim position is to provide some stability, or hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive.

“Don’t screw it up,” in other words.

It’s also important in those cases where Morgan and Laurance don’t see eye-to-eye on an issue. Nothing worse than a 1-to-1 tie (which is why soccer will never be high on my TV list) on an important chicken ordinance and that third commissioner provides a tiebreaker.

To summarize: We should have a decision as soon as a committee is assigned to appoint a citizen panel that will make a recommendation that will be taken into consideration by the two commissioners who may or may not go along with that recommendation, in which case another committee will be tasked to review the appointment process.

Got it?

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Jul 20, 2014 12:06AM Published Jul 20, 2014 12:06AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.