Council candidate interviews lead to tense discussions

Anyone who thought Eileen Quiring O’Brien’s departure from the Clark County Council would result in far more affable meetings only had to tune in to Wednesday’s council time meeting to be proven wrong.
Although most of the meeting passed with little fanfare, things took a heated turn when the discussion turned to interviewing candidates for the now vacant District 5 seat.
Before hammering out a date to interview the candidates, Councilor Gary Medvigy asked if the county had issued a press release yet naming the seven individuals who applied for the position. Medvigy noted some of his constituents had asked about the list of candidates adding he also saw the names in a news story in The Columbian. The Columbian obtained the names of the seven applicants through a public records request.
Council Chair Karen Bowerman said while the names had not been released by the county, nor would they be, the names were available through “other means” such as a Google search.
“For transparency, I think the county should either post it or do a press release on all those who were considered,” Medvigy said.
But Bowerman wasn’t budging.
“I shared with all of the applicants – at the time that I spoke with them – that I, personally, would not be releasing all of their names but that it was something that was available through open information if requested and it was requested. I don’t see a need to put those names forward from myself or the county,” Bowerman said.
When Bowerman asked what the purpose would be in releasing the names now, Medvigy replied, “Transparency.”
Scheduling the candidate interviews proved difficult as well. While Bowerman and Medvigy wanted to schedule the interviews no later than March 10, Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson said they were already committed to other meetings and conferences. Neither had the 2 ½ to 3-hour window of time needed for the interviews available until later in the month, they said.
After being pressed further, Lentz said, “I have a full schedule, I’m sorry that is the case. I don’t have the privilege of being retired, I have many commitments.”
That answer didn’t seem to appease Medvigy.
“You’re hired by the public and get a pretty sizable salary to take care of county business,” Medvigy said.
County councilors are paid $53,000 per year and are considered part-time positions. Prior to passage of the home rule charter, council positions were considered full-time positions and paid over $100,000 per year.
“I do get a salary for county business, which I do, and many of these meetings are county business. Also, this is not a job that is assumed to be held as a full-time job. Some of us also have to earn another living. That is following the spirit and practice of the charter,” Lentz replied.
Although Bowerman said waiting until the end of March when everyone was available was unacceptable, she asked County Manager Kathleen Otto to tentatively schedule the interviews for 10 a.m. on March 29 while she confirmed the candidates would be available at that time.
The council next meets as the Board of Health at 9 a.m. on March 9.
— Shari Phiel

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