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?