CALL TO ORDER The Board meeting of June 3, 2016 for the Columbia Irrigation District was reconvened by President Shawver at 3:00 pm . Present at the meeting were:
|Vince Shawver, President||Howard Ellison, Director|
|Matthew Morrell, Vice President, via telephone||Tom Cowan, Attorney|
|Jerry Sleater, Director||Bonnie Kulp, Recorder|
|Jim Gose, Director|
Guests: Sheila Thackham, Sherry Thackham, Stan King
SELECT NEW MANAGER
President Shawver read Howard Ellison’s resignation (attached to these minutes) from the interim manager position in order to sit on the Board as a bonafide elected official. Shawver stated Ellison did a good job for the District and Director Sleater concurred.
Director Gose presented a handout (attached to these minutes) to the Board of Directors listing his concerns about the process used for finding a new manager. He felt the advertisement for the management position was not handled properly and should have been reviewed by the Directors before the advertisement went to press. Gose asked Mr. Cowan if he agreed that the Board should have reviewed the ad. Mr. Cowan stated it was a task the Board delegated to the staff.
Director Gose also stated the intent was for a long-term career position, referring to Director Ellison’s desire to be hired for a five year term. In Gose’s opinion that was not what the District offered. Mr. Cowan stated that in the state of Washington, unless you have a long-term contract the employee is an “at-will” employee where either the employee or employer can terminate the employment at any time. Director Morrell clarified the “hope” was for long-term, not a requirement.
Director Gose was questioning the authority of the office manager sorting the applications and asked Mr. Cowan his opinion. Gose felt it was private information and not the office manager’s business. Mr. Cowan stated the information was not private and whether the office manager sorts the applications is based on the authority directed by the Board. He also stated he has prepared resolutions for other entities outlining the designation of authority to the manager and the manager in turn delegates tasks to the employees. Gose stated he thought that was personal information and only the Directors should be privy to what was in each application because of the privacy act. Mr. Cowan explained he had looked at the ad and it did not say the submittals would be private. He also stated the documents received by the District are subject to the public records act. Cowan suggested another way to weed out non-qualified applicants is to have a private entity do the first cut and bring the qualified applications to the Board.
Director Ellison took exception to Director Gose’s statement about having only two candidates to consider, Simmons and Birdsall. Three people were interviewed and three people should be either selected or rejected. He reminded Gose the direction’s at the end of the last meeting were to think about the selection of candidates and select the manager at this meeting.
Director Gose presented a sequence of events to Mr. Cowan. He stated that he called Director Shawver and told him he would really like a second interview to meet Mr. Birdsall face to face. Shawver asked Gose to make the call. Gose called and requested the interview, Mr. Birdsall agreed and Gose gave him instructions to call Shawver because Shawver had to call the other members of the Board. Shawver in the mean-time called each member of the board to get their opinion. Ellison was opposed but the four other members were in agreement to give him the second interview. Cowan stated these are called “Serial Meetings” and violates the Open Meeting Act. Calling and canvassing the Board resulted in a decision being made.
Director Sleater nominated Howard Ellison to be the manager of the District. Morrell seconded. There was no further discussion. Directors Sleater and Ellison voted yes and Directors Shawver, Gose and Morrell voted no. Motion failed.
President Shawver stated he did not think the Board was ready to decide who the next manager will be and felt second interviews would be appropriate. Director Gose made a motion to have second interviews with each of the three candidates. There was no second. Discussion followed about checked references and whether or not to open up the job again and re-advertise.
Sleater nominated Director Ellison to be the interim manager until a permanent decision is made. Director Shawver seconded the motion. Discussion followed with Director Gose asking why Ellison was sitting in his Board seat for this meeting. Ellison responded that he wanted to be able to speak his mind. He stated he liked the position of manager, enjoys it and feels he is doing a good job. The Board unanimously agreed. Ellison didn’t understand for several reasons: he’s embedded with several CID projects that are critical to the District; one of the two other candidates interviewed didn’t think it was important enough to come for a face to face interview and the other one has been eliminated.
Office Manager Bonnie Kulp stated she felt the Board was fighting against what was best for the District. She agreed with Director Ellison about the one applicant not having enough interest to come to Kennewick for a face-to-face interview. She stated the Board has seen Ellison in the action of taking care of District business; they know he is capable and he’s up to speed on the current events of the District. She didn’t understand why they were not moving forward with hiring him. Director Shawver stated the Board wants to make sure they are getting the best person hired so he didn’t feel second interviews were out of line. He also stated he didn’t agree with Board members becoming managers.
Director Ellison stated he did not become a Board member in order to become the manager. Director Shawver agreed but he stated it would create a precedence for the future. Shawver also stated he wants to make sure the best qualified person gets the job.
Director Ellison stated as the manager, the first thing he would do is arrange for training for the Board from our liability insurance carrier on what the Board of Director’s scope of duties are because CID cannot continue to have the disagreements that hinder District progress. President Shawver called for a vote of the motion on the floor. All were in favor of Director Ellison being the interim manager therefore the motion passed.
A discussion followed about what options to take going forward with the hiring process. The District could re-open the position, re-advertise or re-interview. Patron, Sheila Thackham asked the Board if they felt the District did sufficient advertising. Director Gose did not. The advertising package chosen took the ad across the nation. Director Morrell asked each board member to leave their emotions out of the equation and answer whether or not Ellison has done a good job. Sleater stated yes, and both Director’s Shawver and Gose had concerns but agreed with emotions left out the answer was yes. Morrell stated he thinks the decision should be between Ellison and Birdsall and would like to see second interviews with them.
Director Gose made a motion to re-interview Mr. Birdsall, face-to-face, and if he is not interested in coming, the position will go to Director Ellison. Director Morrell seconded the motion. The vote was 3 to 2 with opposition from Directors Sleater and Ellison. Motion passed with date and time to be determined.
Director Gose suggested a point of contact be designated for contact with the District’s attorney. Director Sleater made a motion for the Board President to have direct contact with the District’s attorney and the manager also have direct contact for necessary functions of the District. Director Gose seconded the motion and it passed.
Shawver wanted to end the meeting stating he felt Director Ellison has done a really good job as the interim manager. Director Sleater countered with “then why don’t we keep him”?. Shawver referred to the last two failures and the mistakes the District has made. Director Ellison urged the District to go forward, not to dwell on the past and reiterated getting the Board trained by our liability insurance carrier, Enduris.
Patron Stan King asked about the propriety of Director Ellison being able to change hats from being the interim manager to a director of the Board. Attorney Cowan stated there is nothing in the statutes against it. Howard explained he is an elected official of Division #3 for CID and he wanted to be able to speak as a director. He could not do that as the interim manager. Ellison stated he could understand Mr. King’s apprehension.
President Shawver adjourned the meeting at 4:27 pm.