Saturday, April 9, 2011

April 8 Redistricting Meeting

Obviously, when most of the meeting is held in executive session, it's easy to get the feeling you're missing out on something.  But this time, the commissioners missed out too.

The Arizona Eagletarian was graced with stories, insights and anecdotes from Tucson conservative blogger The Cholla Jumps and former Republican state Rep. James Kraft. Both of these gentlemen are storytelling artistes, sometimes funny, sometimes intriguing, but certainly entertaining.

While Mr. Kraft wasn't the least bit offensive, I would be remiss to NOT reflect on his storytelling prowess and how it made news about 9 years ago (Note the segment of The Skinny labeled "Kraft Work").

Anyway, it seemed that at least three hours of the meeting was conducted without the public.  During the first executive session, it took the commissioners an hour to narrow an unspecified number of executive director candidates down to five.  The five (listed below) will be invited for an interview at next week's commission meeting in Phoenix.

Commissioner Herrera proposed doing as much of the interviewing in public session as possible.  He wanted to wait on exec sessions until after initial interviews.  Herrera was overruled by Commissioners McNulty, Freeman and Stertz.  McNulty also suggested reserving the right to hire without public discussion.  Freeman and Stertz agreed.

Recall that last week, Commissioner Mathis said she wanted to expedite the hiring process for this position. But Susan Laurence, with Dept of Administration Personnel, said it generally takes two weeks to check references.  Then, the commission decided that hiring would take place around the end of April.  It now looks like they are rushing that process. 

It's likely the commission is beginning to feel time pressure.  According to a handout with the 2001 IRC time line, an executive director was hired on March 1st, 2001.  However, if I recall correctly, that first executive director did not work out well and was replaced.

On Thursday, Yellow Sheet Reporter Christian Palmer was calling around trying to find out who was in the running for this position.  YS is a political gossip sheet published by the Arizona Capitol Times. It seemed odd that this was such a big deal before a short list of possible candidates was released by the commission.

Then, Friday's Arizona Republic reported passage of SB1288, prohibiting decertification of any licensed professional in Arizona on the basis of religion.  The article cites a controversy over Christopher Gleason being excluded from eligibility to become an IRC commissioner.

Gleason still claims he was excluded because of his religion.  However, Gleason's friend, Dick Stertz, also a man of faith and involved with some of the same religious groups/activities, was selected for the commission by Senate President Russell Pearce.

Stertz last week openly expressed his desire to closely advise the Department of Administration in this hiring process.  I wish I knew if there was any connection.  I also wish I knew why Palmer was so curious before the short list was announced.

The five candidates are:
  • Former (independent) commissioner candidate Ray Bladine
  • Christina Gomez
  • Jeffrey Geoffrey Gonsher
  • David Luhan (not to be confused with former Arizona state Rep. David Lujan) - from Lakewood, CO
  • Manuel Cisneros
Spelling of names (other than Bladine and Luhan) may or may not be accurate.  These five applications will be made public.  Bladine's application to become a commissioner is here.  He was a finalist for the chairman's spot, but was not chosen.

Discussion on the computer support specialist position revolved around whether to hire a bilingual (Spanish) individual.  Stertz proposed the idea so this person could assist with Spanish translation.  McNulty disagreed.  On this one, Herrera agreed with Stertz.  Preference, but not requirement, for a person who can speak Spanish will be advertised.

Will this preference limit the pool of candidates for the highly technical position?  And is Spanish proficiency necessary in this case if the commission hires a bilingual community outreach specialist, as it appears they intend?

The second executive session was called to finalize the RFP language for legal and mapping consultants.  Because of prior discussion about the proposed scope of work, the commissioners anticipated taking only a few minutes this time.  Legal counsel Jim Barton said that executive session was necessary because doing so openly would give potential consultants in attendance an advantage.

Neither RFP was finalized and approved, even though the "brief" executive session lasted two hours.  The commission voted to give authority -- to approve the final RFP language for the mapping consultant -- to Stertz.  And if I recall correctly, authority for the legal consultant RFP approval was delegated to Mathis.

By this time, everyone apparently had grown weary.  The commission voted to table the remaining substantive agenda items and set the next meeting for Thursday, April 14 at 10am.  They intend to then handle agenda items VI through XI from the April 8 meeting, take a lunch break and begin interviewing executive director candidates at 1pm.

Key Dept. of Administration staffers including property managers (to advise and assist on office space rental), state procurement administrators (to advise and assist on RFP development to hire legal and mapping consultants) and the state (financial) controller Joe Whitmer (to advise on budget and accounting matters) spent all or part of the executive session time not able get any work done.

I wonder what will happen when the time those public servants spent waiting gets charged against the total $3Million appropriation (only half million available before July 1rst).

UPDATE:  at the beginning of yesterday's meeting, commissioners made numerous corrections to the draft minutes from the March 31 meeting.  Yes, numerous.  The draft was very sloppy and appeared to have been prepared hastily. 

Did the commission correct all substantive errors?  What are the implications of having sloppily prepared minutes presented for approval?

The commissioners clearly are under already the gun with demands on their time, and the work of redrawing district lines has not even begun.  I believe each of the commissioners has been doing his/her homework between meetings, but what is going to get missed in approving meeting minutes over the next few weeks or months?


  1. I might have a correction for one name: Geoffrey Gonsher, who was the former Director of the Department of Racing and former Director of the Lottery.