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Commissioners agree to work on appointment policy

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Fayette County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to develop a procedure for making citizen appointments to various boards and commissions.

Three people who had asked to be considered for an appointment to the Area Planning Commission came to the commissioner meeting to challenge the appointment of Leota King to the APC and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

King’s term as a commissioner ended on Dec. 31, 2018. She formerly served on the APC as a county commissioner. The current commissioners appointed her to an open APC position on Jan. 15. That position also serves on the BZA.

After the appointment, Craig Mosburg asked in emails why the commissioners had appointed King without considering the qualifications of other applicants for the position. He and Karen Tower and Joe Schultz came to Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting to ask that question.

Before any of them spoke, Mike Wenta, president of the Fayette County Council, spoke to the commissioners, saying that he believes that a selection process should be put in place. He promised to speak to the county council about that at its meeting Tuesday night.

In his turn on the agenda, Mosburg said he had three questions for the commissioners. He asked, “What is your procedure” for making appointments; what are the qualifications for appointment to the APC/BZA position; and “Why weren’t we called in for interviews?”

Then Mosburg asked if any of the commissioners knew his background. None did. He said that he has held a real estate license, which meant he had to pass an exam requiring some knowledge of zoning issues.

Mosburg has been an outspoken critic of plans to construct wind generating towers in northwestern Fayette County. He believes King, who has been an outspoken supporter of those plans, should not be on the APC, calling that a conflict of interest.

Commissioner Gary Naylor and county attorney Anne Sanders said Mosburg was incorrect about “conflict of interest.” They said the legal term means that a person stands to benefit financially from a matter that they are acting on. King has no personal interest in the project, Naylor said.

Tower also explained some of her background. 

Commissioner Mark Nobbe defended King’s appointment, saying she had served previously on the APC. However, he made a motion to rescind her appointment and allow the director of the Area Planning Commission, Bill MacDaniel, make the appointment. The motion failed when no one seconded it.

Later, Naylor said he would be willing to consider rescinding King’s appointment but that the commissioners should make the appointment rather than the department head. 

Nobbe said that if the three applicants had wanted the commissioners to know of their qualifications, they should have put those qualifications in a letter or communication expressing their interest. No one had asked them to do that, came the response.

Schultz said that when he spoke with Commissioner Dale Strong about his interest in the position, Strong had said he knew Schultz well and didn’t need to know more of his background.

As discussion proceeded, the commissioners agreed that some kind of procedure for appointments should be developed. Schultz suggested forming a committee made up of a commissioner and some council members to develop that policy.

“This has maybe opened all our eyes up,” Schultz said. “... (W)ith all due respect, it kind of looks like good ole boy politics.”

Naylor said he could see the point and said that wasn’t the intention. The commissioners had opened up the appointments hoping to get more people involved.

“Joe, I agree with you. Sometimes it does look like the good ole boy system. I can assure you that 99.9 percent of the people that are elected have nothing but the good of the people at heart ... do we do all things right? No, but we do have the interests of the taxpayer at heart.”