In a phone conversation just now, IRC exec. dir Bladine told me that as a follow up to the agenda item discussed below, he will put an item on the agenda for the May 3 IRC meeting to discuss the possibility of hiring a Deputy Director. The agenda should be available by tomorrow morning. Look for another post on the Arizona Eagletarian about the next meeting after I see the agenda.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, as expected, posted an agenda for this coming Wednesday's (now it's only tomorrow's) meeting. As expected, the meeting will be an executive session only meeting.
NOT as expected, an item appears on the agenda which may or may NOT be appropriate for this particular executive session only meeting.
Item III states, "Discussion of hiring of administrative support staff. (A.R.S. § 38-431 (A)(1))."
A.R.S. § 38-431 (A)(1) states:
A. Upon a public majority vote of the members constituting a quorum, a public body may hold an executive session but only for the following purposes:
1. Discussion or consideration of employment, assignment, appointment, promotion, demotion, dismissal, salaries, disciplining or resignation of a public officer, appointee or employee of any public body, except that, with the exception of salary discussions, an officer, appointee or employee may demand that the discussion or consideration occur at a public meeting. The public body shall provide the officer, appointee or employee with written notice of the executive session as is appropriate but not less than twenty-four hours for the officer, appointee or employee to determine whether the discussion or consideration should occur at a public meeting.
The emphasis is mine. While I cannot say definitively whether what the AIRC wants to do is lawful, there are a couple of things I can say with at least a little bit of confidence.
The language quoted above appears to allow an executive session to consider taking a personnel action about a SPECIFIC person. It also says that the purpose of the executive session must be (declared and) voted on publicly prior to the executive session.
On last week's agenda, item VII was moved to the end of the agenda. Item VII was addressed in executive session. The ONLY agenda item that could be addressed after the executive session was to adjourn the meeting. No other action had been given proper legal advance notice. Because there was no possibility of any further reportable action, I left when the commission went into that executive session.
Does this mean that the commission has a specific candidate already hand-picked to hire for a specific position? There was NO discussion during any of the recent open meetings about ANY specific person to hire for a position of "administrative support staff." I DO recall the commission directing newly hired Exec. Dir. Ray Bladine to develop a staffing plan to submit for the commissioners to consider. And I do recall the commission having voted to hire Buck Forst for the position of Computer Support Manager. Commissioner Herrera and Mr. Bladine were directed and authorized to negotiate a salary with Forst.
So, the question remains as to what this agenda item III really is and whether it is something that should be discussed in public session BEFORE anything could be appropriately (lawfully) scheduled for executive session.
No doubt something more should be made public, one way or another. I will update this post after I find out what that is.
UPDATE: 2:40pm Tuesday, April 26.
I just spoke with Bladine. He put agenda item III on for tomorrow's executive session only meeting because he has an idea of what he'd like to hire a person to do, and he has a person in mind that he wants to hire. He will present the idea to the five commissioners and if they think it is reasonable (based on informal feedback, but no vote will be taken during the meeting tomorrow) he will approach the person to see if he (or she) is interested.
Afterward, he indicated he would be able to say what the position under consideration is and present the situation for discussion and possible action at a subsequent meeting.
This doesn't answer all of the possible questions, but at least gives an idea of what they are up to for now.
I will reiterate (probably at least from time to time) that I do not believe anything sinister is afoot, but that asking and reporting on questions like this will hopefully aid in keeping the IRC, its members and staff on their toes.