Polk commissioners spar over board appointment

Published 9:02 am Thursday, February 10, 2011

What would normally be a routine agenda item turned controversial for Polk County commissioners this week.
The board met Monday, Feb. 7 and had a split decision declining a volunteer applicant to the Polk County Recreation Advisory Board.

David Moore, who ran for county commissioner during the November election as a Republican, was denied approval for the board.

Commissioner Chairman Ray Gasperson, vice-chair Renée McDermott and commissioner Cindy Walker, all Democrats, did not vote to appoint Moore. Commissioners Ted Owens and Tom Pack, both Republicans, voted in favor of Moore’s appointment.

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Democrats say the denial wasn’t political, but Republicans say it was.

Following the vote, commissioner Ted Owens told the board to “wait a minute,” because one applicant’s name wasn’t named to the board. He asked commissioners if their decision to decline Moore was political. McDermott answered during the meeting that it was not political.

“I think it’s unfair to the children of Polk County that I didn’t get put on that board,” said Moore. “I’ve coached T-ball the last two seasons and feel I can give something to the board. Unfortunately, three of our commissioners are using politics to get in the way of that.”

McDermott said the reasons were not political in any way. She said she based her decision on Moore’s behavior and temperament.

“Moore shouted out negative comments during a meeting during the election season and again Monday following the vote,” McDermott said. “I don’t feel that’s the kind of temperament that needs to be on a county board, especially one that deals with children. It was anything but political.”

McDermott said she has received other reports regarding Moore that indicate he would not be an appropriate candidate for the recreation board.
She said if a Democrat had acted in the same manner as Moore, she wouldn’t appoint him or her either. McDermott also said commissioners don’t know most applicants’ political affiliations and they have probably appointed many Republicans to volunteer boards.

Other board appointments approved Monday nigh included registered Republicans, including the other position on the recreation board.

Pack said during the more than four years he previously served as a commissioner, he cannot remember a time when the board did not appoint applicants to any board with open slots.

“We did not look at party affiliation when appointing members,” Pack said. “It has come to a new low when party affiliation is considered to serve on a volunteer board.”

Pack added he hates it for the kids that are served by the board because Moore is well-qualified, having coached T-ball and taught numerous Polk County youth as a driving instructor.

“For politics to come into play and keep him from serving the kids is about as low as you can go,” said Pack. “I am sure the other commissioners will have some excuse but I think the public will see it for what it is; politics before what is best for the kids of Polk County.”

Gasperson said the reason he did not vote to appoint Moore had no connection to his political affiliation.

“The reason that I did not vote to appoint Mr. Moore to the recreation board had no connection to his political affiliation, but rather that he has, especially in recent months, made several negative and belittling comments to commissioner Walker,” Gasperson said, “some of which even I had been a witness. Commissioner Walker enjoys serving on the recreation board and I was deeply concerned that if Mr. Moore was appointed it would only give him greater opportunities to continue these verbal insults.”

Commissioner Ted Owens said since the county has difficulty filling boards he doesn’t understand why commissioners would not fill a board just because they have something personal against someone.

“I don’t understand why we can’t put personal feelings behind us and put qualified people on these boards,” Owens said.

Walker said she can’t vote for someone who disrespects her.

“I cannot vote for a man that publicly disrespects me, regardless of party affiliation,” said Walker. “David Moore’s reaction after the vote reaffirmed my decision.”

The announcement of board appointments was the last item of business Monday. As soon as the meeting was adjourned, words were spoken among commissioners and between Moore and Walker.
Walker asked county manager Ryan Whitson to intervene after Moore said something to Walker about the vote. Walker and Owens could also be overheard discussing whether the action was political.

During the county’s Jan. 24 meeting, the board unanimously decided to change how it votes for board appointments. Previously, the votes were made verbally by each commissioner, with the clerk tallying the votes.

The board changed the procedure last month to writing down the votes on ballots with each volunteer applicant’s name beside boxes to check for “approve,” or “don’t approve.” The clerk now names who was appointed to which board following the tally and the ballots showing who voted which way are put into the minutes.

Chair Gasperson suggested the change last month, saying he recently attended government training at which he learned other local governments make appointments by ballot.

He said the suggestion had nothing to do with Moore, as he didn’t realize at the time he thought of changing the procedure that the recreation board appointment would be up for a vote at the next meeting.

Pack said he voted to change the voting procedure last month, but now regrets that decision.

“Now you do not hear a commissioner make a verbal vote for or against an applicant, you only hear who is appointed and who is not,” said Pack. “It is not very transparent to the citizens as to how the individual commissioners voted.”

There were two vacancies on the recreation board and two applicants. Joe Owen received five votes for approval and Moore received two votes for approval and three votes against approval.

Other board appointments made Monday were given unanimous approval, including Bill Davis and Jeff Searcy for the Farmland Preservation Board and Kenneth Arrowood, Bruce Collins, Jack Montgomery and Danny Willis for the Green Creek Fire Tax Commission.