Tuesday, November 16, 2010

“Conspiracy theories exacerbated by the local press”

The Sisters City Council and EDCO finally addressed concerns raised by citizens and one councilor over the process used to hire Mac Hay as Sisters’ economic development manager.
They did it begrudgingly and with poor grace, but they did it.

EDCO executive director Roger Lee, visibly annoyed at having to be there at all, explained to the council last Thursday EDCO’s candidate search and interview process. Lee wants to put to rest what he called “conspiracy theories in the Sisters community exacerbated by the local press.”


Can’t have those pesky citizens and reporters asking questions about how their local government (and its private, nonprofit agents) work.

A couple of ironies here: First, it wasn’t really EDCO’s feet that were being held to the fire; the fundamental question was whether the Mayor followed the city’s rules. City Attorney Steve Bryant makes a not-entirely-convincing argument that the rules didn’t apply in this case. Nobody’s going to fight it out in court, so the Mayor’s actions stand.

Second — and most importantly — if Lee had explained the process six weeks ago, when questions first arose, instead of saying essentially, “We don’t have to and we ain’t gonna,” this whole issue would have long since blown over. Better yet, the city could have checked in advance on whether they were following their own ordinances and explained to their constituents how things were going to work.

Thursday’s theme was “let’s move on.” That’s all well and good; everybody’s sick of the issue and we do need to pull together and support Hay’s efforts. But it really should be recognized that it wasn’t the people asking the questions but the people who refused to answer them that dragged this little controversy out for SIX WEEKS.

A little due process up front would have saved a lot of headaches at the back end. Failing that, more responsiveness would have cleared the air a lot sooner. That should be a lesson learned, but Lee’s attitude and the attitude of some on the council makes me think the same thing is going to happen again. Too bad.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Am I the only one who is confused by the intensity of this debate? Yes, government needs to do the people's business in the open -- that's a huge deal. But let's look at what we're dealing with here: the city asked an outside agency to make a recommendation for hiring a part-time, temporary consultant, and acted on the agency's recommendation.

    It seems the city got a deal -- a highly qualified, enthusiastic guy willing to work for a small stipend. Who would have guessed this would turn out to be such a political fireball? Politically, this maybe wasn't handled perfectly, but that's mainly clear in retrospect. Honestly, why do we care so much who the interviewers were? It seems to me that those involved gave a reasonable explanation of why it was done this way, and why there were confidentiality commitments that need to be kept.

    I keep wondering, is there some missing piece of information that would account for the intensity of anger over this? Otherwise, it doesn't make any sense.

    Openness in government is important, but there's such a thing as making a mountain out of a molehill.

  2. Anonymous 1:50 —

    It wouldn't have even been a molehill if the city and EDCO had simply done what they did Thursday night six weeks ago, when people first asked questions — let the public in on the process.

    When people ask questions and get the stiff arm and/or a legalistic runaround, it makes them suspicious and angry.

    The Mayor, staff, the council majority and EDCO knew this was politically sensitive, yet instead of making every effort to be forthcoming, they made every effort to obfusticate and to make it difficult to get straight answers to simple questions.

    It's their fault it turned into a big deal.

    Jim Cornelius

  3. I dont work in government. I work for a large Corporation. If I conducted business the way the city council and EDCO did, I wouldn't have a job.

  4. Jim,

    Now many years ago a public education entity in Bend took a similar "we don't have to" stance regarding an offensive cartoon in the student newspaper. Not only was it offensive but in violated copyright law, as well.

    When asked to assist the student editor and cartoonistin correcting the issue the then president of the institution reaffirmed his "we don't have to and it's none of your business" position.

    Some weeks later, after much public outcry, a very public meeting forced to be hosted by the institution, a rare but welcome lambasting by the Bulletin and a reported $100,000 in legal bills...

    The students involved and the faculty "did have to do it".

    Arrogance and stupidity abound whether in the Ivory Towers of Education or in small town government. We cannot permit for one minute, regardless of issue, not to call "them" on it whenever they grunt in disdain at our interest.

    You are correct. "They" made it a big deal and "they" got spanked in pubic, as they should be. Wasn't it former President Dick Nixon who assured us he wasn't a crook? Or Charlie Rangel today when he offers upon formal censure of his peers that he's merely sloppy but not corrupt?

    Keep keeping them honest, Jim. History shows "they" are unable and unwilling to do so themselves.

  5. Thank you Jim. You have greatly impressed me during this process. Good government happens in the open.

  6. To the first Anonymous reply.

    The Mayor has publicly stated he can’t recall how he was informed that May Hay was the selectee. City Manager Stein stated that she can’t recall how she was informed that May Hay was the selectee. There is no written communication that states Mac Hay was the selectee. The only physical communication that exists is an email from Roger Lee to Eileen Stein that implies there was a short list of candidates, and mentions no specific candidate by name. So, the main parties “know” Mac was the guy, but they don’t know how they know. They simply can recall – like it was such a minor issue they were not really paying attention. And when Councilor Weed attempted to ask Roger Lee how the selection was communicated, Mayor Kellstrom cut her off and refused to allow the question. Nobody wants to be forthcoming about anything. It took the city manager more that 2 weeks to finally step away from the public records request she position herself behind and answer a simple yes/no question that “No” she was not aware of any physical communication from EDCO informing the city that Mac was the selectee. What part about that does not bother you?

    Yes hiring a part-time consultant to do this work for this money is a good deal. But what if there were better qualified candidates out there? What if the processed was rigged? I am not saying that there were better candidates, and I am not saying that Mac is not qualified, and I am not saying it was rigged; I am saying that transparency in government keeps people like me from asking questions like this. When people act in a secretive way it is natural to suspect something is wrong, and this entire process appears secretive.

    The smell of the whole thing reeks!