There’s more to the appointment story

823858 salary commission_05In the recent commotion over the Vancouver mayor and city council’s big pay raises, people often mention that the mayor himself appointed the five Salary Review Commission members.

Which is technically true. The city charter states, “Commission members shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to approval of the city council.”

Given the 117 percent pay increase the salary commission just awarded the mayor for 2017-18, the whole appointment process may sound a little shady – perhaps as if the mayor might be able to stack the commission with cronies he thinks will fatten his wallet.

However, the mayor actually has nothing to do with the selection of commission members.

I asked city staff about the process for appointing people to city advisory boards and commissions, including the Salary Review Commission. Here’s what I learned: The mayor designates six council members to form two subcommittees to review candidates for city advisory boards and commissions. The mayor doesn’t sit on either subcommittee.

After interviewing the applicants for a vacancy, the subcommittee has city staff draft a memo indicating the preferred candidate. The memo is distributed to the city council. The mayor’s name is on a memo that officially places the appointment on the agenda for council confirmation. The council takes a vote at a council meeting, and the individual is appointed.

Wednesday, Mayor Tim Leavitt said even though his name might be on a memo, he has nothing to do with “appointing” people to commissions. Many times, he has no idea who’s applied for the board and commission vacancies the city advertises, “and I certainly have no conversation with them during the interview process,” he said.

“I’m not at all involved in it,” Leavitt said. “I vote on it just like the other six council members do, but I have no role in the selection process at all.”

Statements people have made – including Columbian Editor Lou Brancaccio — implying he’s handpicking commissioners who will serve his interests, Leavitt said, are “so disingenuous and borderline deceitful that I’m very disappointed.”

Leavitt noted that although he’ll benefit from the pay raise next year – if voters don’t repeal it – he isn’t running for re-election.

“This is about the future of the city council and the evolution of leadership on the council,” he said.

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