The Ottumwa Courier

February 20, 2013

Public deserves a higher standard in hiring process


OTTUMWA — A Feb. 9 Courier article reported that the Iowa League of Cities director said Ottumwa’s hiring process for a new transit director “appears legal, so any problem that has arisen is in public opinion.” That has been bothering me since I read it. My opinion is that the public deserves a much higher standard than what simply “appears legal.” We deserve dignified, civil, ethical conduct. I think those who represent the citizens of Ottumwa on the council, boards, committees and as department heads should conduct themselves in ways that are above reproach. Most of them do. All of them should. I believe a council member is within his rights to apply for a staff position and to vote on whether to approve the candidate who is selected, if he is not the one chosen. I think where we suffered civic embarrassment was when multiple public figures inserted themselves into a process where they were not specifically invited — and then commented on it publicly. Fair hiring process will have each candidate reviewed by the same set of people using the same criteria, under the same circumstances. While the transit director selection may have been legal, it was not dignified or ethical. It had the appearance of bullying, stacking the deck and hiding shenanigans. The city of Ottumwa and the transit board has had more than its share of negative publicity. I want to be clear that I do not mean that negative behaviors should not be publicized. Wrong-doing and behaviors that are questionable absolutely should be dragged into the light of day. The shady behaviors, lack of ethics and poor conduct are what need to stop.

Brenda Case