If Friday’s GVR board meeting left you scratching your head, you weren’t alone. Let’s point out the oddities as they unfolded.
•The 12-member board opened by high-fiving each other over the public announcement minutes earlier that they’d hired a flawed candidate as their new CEO. But nobody called Scott Somers flawed because who wants to admit they screwed up? We’ll get back to him.
•Then came the announcement of a whatever-it-costs witch hunt to find out who leaked the names of the three CEO finalists to our newspaper. Board president Don Weaver said the names had not been disclosed “to anyone in GVR outside of the board and search committee.” That’s not true, the place is like a sieve.
•Weaver said it appeared the disclosure “was intended to portray one of the candidates in a negative light…” Incorrect again. Nobody said a word to us about Somers’ costly mistake in Clatsop County, Oregon, because I doubt the board, the committee or anybody else in GVR knew about it. Not that it was hard to dig up. Weaver told me the search firm disclosed the lawsuit that cost the county about $700,000 over a mishandled employee issue by Somers. He didn’t say when they were alerted but I’d bet it was within an hour of me calling Somers on Nov. 5.
•The next agenda item was the show-stopper. In an obviously orchestrated move, board member Mike Zelenak moved that the board appoint an ad hoc committee to conduct “an internal investigation” into the leak. Two stranger-than-fiction things about this. First, Zelenak’s going to be chairing it — even though Weaver had just stated that all committee and board members are suspects. Who’s to say Zelenak isn’t the leaker? Or Weaver? Either the board is spitting in the wind (that gets my vote) or they’ve already come to a conclusion before the investigation (that gets my vote, too). Next, the ad hoc committee has pretty much been given a blank check to fund the witch hunt, which includes hiring “independent experts.” (Look for your dues to go up again next year…)
•Then there was this from board member Mark McIntosh: “Our members shouldn’t be hearing what the board is doing from GV News, they should hear it from us first. GV News should not be telling people what we’re doing on the board before we tell the members.”
But what if you’re not telling the members, Mark?
And with that we move to the Q&A session with members, where Weaver put on a textbook display of why you shouldn’t rely on those who are hiding information to provide it. (And let’s briefly mention the convenience of hearing member questions only after all the votes were taken.)
Question: Who voted for Somers and why? Weaver said it was done in Executive Session and nobody was going to comment on it. “That’s not something we need to discuss with members,” he said. To be sure, Weaver didn’t want to be in a position of defending Somers’ past, and who can blame him? But don’t members deserve to know why you think the guy is qualified? Let’s call it like we see it: The board had no control of this hiring process. They ate the slop that was put in front of them.
Question: Will the membership see the contract given to Somers? Weaver: No. (That response makes sense until you recall that awful multi-year rolling contract Blumenthal secured. That’s why it cost so much to buy him out. Yes, members should know what’s in the contract because the board has made costly and poor decisions in the past and has not earned back the trust. Given the lack of transparency in this fiasco, I question whether the entire board even saw the contract.)
Question: Two questions about giving finalists confidentiality. Weaver said the questions had been answered (the search firm called the shots and demanded confidentiality, he told me last week). Given that the questions were read by a GVR staff person and not asked by members directly, there was no opportunity for the obvious follow-up: Why go with a search firm that required this gross lack of transparency? And can we see the search firm contract? Because, given Weaver’s answer to the next question, I’m not convinced confidentially was their requirement.
Question: Why didn’t members get a chance to meet the candidates, as has always been the practice? “We’re in a different world today with COVID-19 and we considered that,” Weaver said. “It’s just a completely different situation than when Kent (Blumenthal) was hired before, period.” So Weaver — addressing all GVR members via Zoom because of the virus — says there was no way to meet the candidates. Hey, Don, maybe by Zoom? Then there’s the glaring contradiction: Why did you even “consider it” if it would have violated the search firm’s contract? Maybe because the confidentiality clause never existed?
Question: If the board had been open with members about the new CEO, there wouldn’t have been any leaks. True statement, yet it drew giggles from several board members. And that sad display of condescension pretty much summed up this entire hiring process. Until the last question.
Question: Since the Green Valley News published some concerns about Scott Somers, can you tell us the true story about the issue that Shearer raised? Great question, followed by dead air. And with that, the board — clearly in sync on this one — ignored the question of the day and confirmed my editorial of Oct. 28: They don’t care what you think.
— Dan Shearer