Monday, January 27, 2020

EDITORIAL | Rush to hire not good for county. (SAR)

Good people of St. Johns County -- please come out to speak about this illegal hiring at the February 4, 2020 St. Johns County Commission meeting. Here's an excellent editorial from the Sunday, January 26, 2020 St. Augustine Record:

EDITORIAL | Rush to hire not good for county
Posted Jan 25, 2020 at 5:01 PM
Just like that, the St. Johns County Commission has itself a new administrator — 33-year-old Hunter Conrad.

No search. No interviews. No short list. No notice to county residents, who might have had a thing or two to say about Tuesday’s vote to offer Conrad the job

The “interim” won’t fall off Conrad’s title until he and county officials negotiate a contract. But it sure feels like a fait accompli. Conrad was recommended for the top job the same day the county fired its last administrator, Michael Wanchick, Nov. 17. (As The Record’s Stuart Korfhage points out, that decision was also made with no advance notice to the public.) Conrad quit his elected post as clerk of the circuit court to take the interim administrator’s post, which seems curious in and of itself — unless he was counting on being offered the top job.

Last week, Conrad apparently met with commissioners individually, telling them it was time to make a decision one way or another, since he would need to launch his bid to be re-elected to the clerk’s position soon if he wasn’t going to be county administrator. It was a bold move for someone who had only been in the interim job for about a month, and who had no experience running an operation as big and complex as a county government.

But apparently it paid off.

“I had to make sort of a considered judgment call when the commission meeting rolled around ... of whether we should proceed with a nationwide search,” Commissioner Henry Dean said. “Or if Hunter is the right one for the position just go ahead and offer him the position because I think he’s doing an excellent job. I’m a big fan of Hunter Conrad.

“I, as one commissioner, am very comfortable with him as our county administrator.”

Dean was also among those insisting that the agenda item to be considered Tuesday, titled “Presentation of options for County Administrator recruitment,” constituted notice that the commission might jump right over recruitment and into contract negotiations with Conrad.

We disagree. St. Johns County residents deserved the chance to evaluate the situation for themselves. More than that, they deserved the reassurance that commissioners had considered an array of options and settled on Conrad among a field of other contenders. If he is truly the right pick, he would stand out.

Most importantly, Conrad deserved to start his tenure without the appearance of a surreptitious move to install him in the job before members of the public had a chance to weigh in. If he was meeting with commissioners a week before Tuesday’s meeting, that was plenty of time to put the matter on the agenda in a more accurate way — to wit, considering making Conrad the permanent administrator.

With all that said, we do hope that the commissioners’ intuition was right — that Conrad quickly grows into the job and proves to be a capable, innovative manager of the myriad divisions and departments that demand attention on a daily basis. It’s a tough job — and a critical one. We wish him the best.

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