Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Troubles at the LCIC - again

Here we go again ... issues of power and control surfacing again at the Lucas County Improvement Corporation, a non-profit agency that does economic development in the county. (background: here, here, and here)

Today's issue? Who sits on the search committee for the new executive director.

According to the Blade article on the meeting yesterday, Oregon Mayor Marge Brown added some people to Commissioner Ben Konop's hand-selected list of committee members.

Interestingly, the article doesn't mention Ben's committee, except for a few. And Mayor Brown's additions are certainly individuals of good standing and respect in the community.

So let's take a look at some of the people Ben picked out, according to what I've learned:

* Ben Konop - of course.
* Bill Brennan - the chair of the Workforce Investment Board. This is good person to have on the committee since the WIB has been contracting with the LCIC for shared duties of the executive director and has paid 40% of the salary for the position.
* Deborah Barnett - a community liaison person for Huntington Bank and former Toledo School Board member who did not run for re-election. She was considered a part of the 'Larry Sykes group' while on the school board. For a short time, she was a member of the WIB.
* Jim Irmen, a township trustee in Swanton and the township representative on the LCIC Exec. Board.
* Rick Mitchell - local lawyer. In the past, he's had a contract with Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz for labor law services and he's been actively involved in many aspects of the community. In the interests of full disclosure, he worked at a local law firm when I was first elected and performed some work on a labor contract for me as the Clerk of Clerk.
* Ann Albright - owner of Swan Creek Candle Company
* Don Monroe - city of Toledo employee and a member of the LCIC
* Keith (last name unknown) from the non-profit Toledo Community Shares
* Carter Wilson, - professor of political science and public administration at The University of Toledo
* Dan Johnson - UT
* Sue Wuest - believe she still works at the Urban Affairs Center at UT. Sue ends up on a lot of such committees and either was, or still is, a member of the Toledo Plan Commission.

Considering the lack of business or economic development people, it makes sense to me that Mayor Brown would want to add such representation. And I think a good mix of political affiliation wouldn't hurt either.

As for the composition, do we really need three people from the University of Toledo? Is this just a way to ensure support for making the interim director permanent? That's what some speculate.

In the end, though, it's not about what is decided as much as it is who gets to decide. And that leads me to this Konop comment from the article:

"He also said he felt it was best for there to be a degree of separation between the LCIC and the team formed to find the organization's next chief executive officer."

And I have to wonder - why would the board want a degree of separation between themselves and their employee? And why would Ben think this is acceptable? This person is going to have to work for the board. He or she is going to have to follow the directions of the board and carry out the board's instruction and vision.

Which brings me back to the original problem I have with how Comm. Konop is going about 'affecting change.' His issue really isn't with the staff - or even with the executive director. His issues are with the decisions of the executive committee and the fact that they're not doing what HE wants. And, despite his involvement with the executive committee, he's not a voting member of the committee so his ability to influence the outcomes is limited.

But he's wrong if he thinks that getting the 'right' executive director will change that. In the end, any new executive director will still work for the board - not just for him, or even for just the commissioners. If he really wants to implement his ideas and plans, he's going to have to get at least one other commissioner to support him. And then he's going to have to get the other members of the executive committee to go along - but he hasn't shown much success in that arena to date. Maybe there's a reason why they're not all jumping for joy over his initiatives? A good question for him to ask himself.

In the meantime, this agency and the good staff members there will continue to be used as pawns in the bigger political game of power and control. And, as has already happened, the support from all the governmental jurisdictions will wane. And it might just make his search for a new executive director more difficult.

By the way - wonder where the $30,000-40,000 cost of the search will come from?


Moosie said...

Just a short addition to your mention of Jim Irmen - he is President of the Toledo Bar Association 2007-2008 in addition to the items you listed.

Maggie Thurber said...

moosie - thanks for the information. My congrats to him!!!

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