Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Where is Dean's due diligence on appointments?

You would think with the recent IQT debacle, the Mayor's Office would be pausing to revise its commitments (or lack thereof) to due diligence of its executive decisions. Despite claims by uncritical supporters that Karl Dean exercised due diligence in the case of IQT, it is not clear that due diligence or process mattered.

I heard from a Nashville leader who had been corresponding with IQT that the company refused to supply Metro with "standard due diligence" items that could have allowed background and financial checks. According to that insider the city did not spend "a ton of time" on the IQT deal. Metro saw the prospect of new jobs, "got excited" and made it easy for IQT to move without the due diligence items.

That leader's perspective is consistent with a July 22 Nashville Business Journal report that the "unraveling" the IQT deal revealed "no consistent, coordinated effort ... for vetting companies that seek tax money in Tennessee."

Weeks later we are approaching what should be a strictly Metro Council appointment to replace David Torrence at Criminal Court Clerk. Yet, Karl Dean has already usurped control and anointed former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, who is generally above reproach, but he has few credentials for a job in Criminal Court and he might not even qualify for a short list of candidates to the position. This anointing sends a clear signal to the rubber-stamping Dean-wing CMs how to cast their votes during next Tuesday's council meeting; for the lazy, voting with Dean means CMs not having to be responsible for due diligence.

So, of course, Mr. Gentry will sail through next week without any objective procedure determining his selection. But this is not the first time Mayor Dean has picked people for departments, boards, and commissions because he knows them and not because they were objectively judged to be the best candidate for the position. The litany of cronyism:

  • Ana Escobar, Metro Clerk (was with Dean at Public Defenders’ Office. No one else interviewed.)
  • Rita Roberts Turner, Human Resources Director (was with Dean at the Public Defenders’ Office. Proved not to be a good fit as Dean's Chief of Staff. At job opening, Dean moved her, with no one else interviewed.)
  • Keith Durbin, Metro I.T. Director (moved up from Metro Council. No one else interviewed.)
  • Stephen Anderson, Metro Police Chief (promoted, with no national search conducted.)
  • Billy Fields, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods (no one else interviewed.)

While those appointments were Dean's to make, the Mayor's selection of Dawn Deaner to Public Defender (she was also with Dean when he was at that office), was the council's, but according to one source I spoke with, Dean cued the rubber stamps on his support of her appointment.

Compare Dean's record to that of Dean's predecessor, who had a thorough vetting procedure that included nationwide searches, pro recruiting firms based on competitive bids and finally, local selection committees. I found out that the selection process produced brochures describing relevant departments, positions, qualifications and duties. The firm and committee typically submitted a "short list" of candidates to the relevant Board or Commission, which then shortened the list further to finalists to present to then-Mayor Bill Purcell. Consequently, the appointments came from all over the country and went to highly qualified candidates:

  • Ronal Serpas, Metro Police Chief (recruited from Washington State)
  • Scott Potter, Metro Water Services (locally grown, but demonstrated qualifications)
  • Rick Bernhardt, Metro Planning Department (again, qualified and local)
  • Dr. Bill Paul, Metro Health Department (recruited from Chicago)
  • Roy Wilson, Metro Parks Director (recruited from Houston)
  • Rick Connor, Public Works Director (recruited from Texas)

If the Mayor is going to usurp what little power the Metro Council has, common sense would dictate that he should only do so to assure due diligence and procedure in selecting candidates for office rather than simply doing so to advance his own interest in surrounding himself with unquestioning loyalists. The lack of process sends a terrible message to the departments, boards and commissions that they do not have to exercise due diligence themselves. The appointment of Jennifer Cole, wife of Dean supporter, CM Erik Cole, to the Metro Arts Commission may have been mimicry of dubious diligence since Ms. Cole had no arts experience before her appointment. Not only does a lack of process expand cronyism, but it also increases the chances that leaders across the system will rush to IQT-like washouts again.

By the way have you noticed that the media is deafeningly silent on these hiring ethical dilemmas? I've heard that we may see stories raising questions about the lack of searches after Howard Gentry's appointment, but not until then. What are the journos afraid of?


  1. To be fair, the Nashville Bar Association reviews the candidates and offers it's members the opportunity to vote, forwarding the results to the mayor and the council. According to an earlier story, Gentry received the highest marks of the existing candidates. Of course, this says as much about the legal class in Nashville as it does about Howard, but the anointing is broader than simply the mayor. The ultimate vetting comes in a year when Howard has to run. In the end it may not matter because everyone knows it's the Deputy Clerk (Tommy Bradley) who actually runs the office, and the judges are happy with his performance.

  2. A good school secretary is more qualified than any candidate on the list, but especially Gentry.

    This is nothing more than a way to recruit the black vote on the council and in a few years when Hizzoner runs for governor.

    Mrs. Cole's job is a farce. There are plenty of people in this city more qualified than she.

    Metro needs to come up with job qualification requirements that are mandatory to have before you can be considered for such a job. If the salary and benefits package were also reduced to be only a certain percentage over what the Metro employees make, these job giveaways would not be so valuable. Then maybe we would get hardworking, really qualified individuals to take these jobs. Anything else is just political paypack on the taxpayer's dime that is flaunted in the face of those paying the taxes.

  3. Mike, you had the chance to vote against Dean and his machine during the election, but if I remember correctly, you instead proudly showed that you wasted your time in the voting booth by voting for no one for mayor, vice mayor or council at large. That lack of voting for anyone to offset the powerful influence of this mayor compromises your integrity to criticize him now. You and many others either mistakenly didn't connect the dots or were victims of your own ideology that refused to vote for conservative candidates as alternatives to Dean. Like it or not, you've got him now in all his glory. Hang on for another 4 years.

  4. I'm not big on "committees," when it comes to running a business. I would apply the same to government.

    Just ask any person in an advertising agency who has had to deal with the "design by committee" syndrome when it comes to a new company logo:

    "The logo looks like shit."

    For an example, just look at Tennessee license plates.

    CEO's who let committees (or board members) make decisions tend to go away within a few years. Or, they become puppets.

    Dean is the latter. I think he does not have the wherewithall required by a true leader. Though I will give him the benefit of the doubt. He may certainly have it, but he has not let it shine.

    Hence, his dependence on paid consultants to determine a variety of decisions that he could make for himself just by rolling up his sleeves and doing what mayors do. (Make decisions!!).

    As an example, I offer the location of the proposed minor league baseball stadium. Our mayor has passed this decision off to a group of paid consultants who live in Kansas City.

    Dean should reach out to the local folks he trusts and just make a decision. Then see what happens.

    I think the appointees mentioned in the above story were "easy" decisions. They were made by Dean's handlers (committees). These obviously were not "hard-choice" decisions made by Mayor Dean.

    To dig deeper, I don't think Dean trusts ANYBODY.

    More importantly, I think he does not know HOW to go about finding people he can trust.

    Therefore, Dean is not a true leader.

    This is not an accusatory statement, but more a matter of fact. For all I have heard, he is great guy. It's also obvious that he is a very bright guy.

    But why has he not stepped up like a true leader? True leaders are not led by those who surround them. True leaders lead.

    Nashville is Mayor Dean's city.

    We have a bunch of insiders pulling strings (a committee). The result is bad decisions for our city.

    As a partial aside:

    Mr. Keeton,

    I voted for you. And helped you to a degree with your campaign.

    I don't think it's quite fair to question Mike's integrity with regard to his vote.

    Votes are cast for a variety of personal reasons.

    When I vote for a person, I look for the integrity that lies within.

    And that means sometimes we just gotta vote for ourselves.

    I wish Karl Dean would do the same.

  5. Appreciate the post. May not agree with it all, but it is analysis worth considering.

  6. Anybody but Michael Craddock for Criminal Court Clerk. I would even prefer Mike Byrd over Mike Craddock. Lol...

  7. Thank God Nashville politics is feisty. The new NFL rules make pro football so boring that it's not gonna be worth watching.

    An official review after every score? (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's what I heard tonight).

    I'm sorta hoping Dean continues to piss me off. Then I can spend my Sundays and Monday nights posting on blogs.