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Home » Archives » April 2006 » LETTERS ON SALARY COMMISSION

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The Good Old Boys At Work

Dear Editor:

The County Council proceedings on Tuesday (4/18)regarding Pam Nichols' rejection as the County Administrator Pro-Tem's nominee to fill the Citizens Salary Commission's designated position for an expert in personnel management was, at once, inspiring and stupefyingly unfair. Speaker after speaker protested Nichols' inexplicable rejection with arguments based on facts. Pam Nichols is impeccably well-credentialed, she has decades of experience in the field, she is compassionate, she makes decisions without bias or prejudice, she is independent, and, collectively, the sum of her qualifications add up to a singularly fine nominee. The quality of the arguments made me proud to be a citizen of San Juan County.

The response from the Council was amazing. One said essentially nothing to the points raised and the other two unapologetically revealed their preference for a second person, Randy Cornelius, (who was selected) through comparisons of the two people comparisons that the process itself should have prevented while the Nichols nomination was under review. Nichols was the nominee, no one else, yet the Council admitted that the second nominee requested from the County Administrator was added to the mix before rejecting Nichols. Why have nominees at all if the council can wait for a preferred candidate and reject the designated nominee without explanation a nominee they themselves agreed was an outstanding candidate?

The person selected should not have been in consideration at all while Nichols was being evaluated, yet this is exactly what the Council did. This is what two members of the Council say they did. That the person selected is, in my opinion, far less qualified worries me less than the Council's blatant disregard of the process the voters put in place with their affirmative vote on the new charter. If this is how the Council plans to implement the charter, we are all in trouble, and they should be ashamed.

I am left with the conclusion that Pam Nichols was rejected for one "reason" that she is married to a former freeholder. One Council member, Kevin Ranker, expressed concern in an earlier interview about bias, the inference being that Nichols would be biased but that Randy Cornelius would not be. Mr. Cornelius, OPALCO General Manager will now be part of the commission who will set the salary of Council member Bob Myhr who is also a member of the OPALCO board of directors. Mr. Myhr abstained from voting on the Cornelius appointment after praising Mr. Cornelius. Mr. Myhr is Mr. Cornelius' boss. He knows that the appointee he endorsed will help to determine his salary.

This situation is remarkable, all the more so because the Council seems oblivious to its own capriciousness and unprofessional behavior on the matter of Pam Nichols' nomination. Her rejection is an insult to all of us.

Janice Peterson
San Juan Island

They Listen, But Do Not Hear

Dear Editor:

It was clear from the Council Meeting on Tuesday (4/18) that the Council does not intend to reconsider their rejection of Pam Nichols for the professional Personnel Management slot on the Salary Commission. It is to the Council's credit that they listened to the many speakers who protested the rejection of a qualified for an unqualified candidate. However, it was also apparent they weren't really hearing what the many speakers were saying.

From the comments at the end of the Citizens Access Time it is clear that they were making a couple of assumptions, perhaps unconsciously. The first is that anyone with management experience is qualified as a Personnel professional. That is no more true than that a hospital administrator can do the job of oncologist. Who do you want treating your cancer? These jobs have separate competencies. That there are special competencies of knowledge and process in HR was made eloquently clear in the testimony of Lori Stokes. The voters of San Juan County deserve that professional expertise, whether from Nichols or some other qualified person.

The second assumption was that Pam Nichols could not represent or understand the values of the "workingman" population, the reason Alan Lichter gave for selecting the other candidate. Such a qualification should never have been a consideration for the professional Human Resources slot, although it is certainly a value for representation in the six at-large slots. But did they think Pam Nichols arrived into the world fully credentialed as a corporate V.P. of Human Resources without working at lower level positions first? (True, she was never a lineman, a strong plus in the other candidate, but she has a niece who was.) Pam, like many successful professionals, is a self-made woman; she received no family financial assistance for her college education, and supported herself for the four years, working two jobs (and sometimes three during the summer) while attending Business School at the U. of Minnesota full time. She knows how to scrimp and save and work two jobs to get ahead. But that is not her qualification for the Personnel Management slot and it should not be a signal qualification in any candidate for that slot.

Unless the Council can produce evidence that the person they selected has professional level training and job experience in the field of Human Resources, they have not fulfilled State law in selecting their candidate for this slot, and they have deliberately deprived the residents of this county of expertise that was available. We are the poorer for their decision.

Nancy Lind
Friday Harbor

speech Benjamin Franklin made in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention about the "dangers of a salaried bureaucracy

Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avaricethe love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have, in many minds, the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men a post of honor, that shall, at the same time, be a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it is that renders the British government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true source of all those factions which are perpetually dividing the nation, distracting its councils, hurrying it sometimes into fruitless and mischievous wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace.

And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable preeminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your government and be your rulers. And these, too, will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation, for their vanquished competitors, of the same spirit, and from the same motives, will perpetually be endeavoring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.

Besides these evils, sir, tho we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we shall find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations; and there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able, in return, to give more to them. Hence, as all history informs us, there has been in every state and kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the governing and the governed; the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay less. And this has alone occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending either in dethroning of the princes or enslaving of the people.

Generally, indeed, the ruling power carries its point, and we see the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes, the greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his partizans, and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure. There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow the example of Pharaohget first all the people's money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants for ever.

Tim Blanchard

The Council owes it to the voters to choose the BEST qualified candidate

Letter to the editor:

San Juan County is fortunate in having civic-minded volunteers for positions in the Salary Commission. We are especially fortunate when, from such a small population, we can get a volunteer who meets all the criteria for the slot for Personnel Management with county level as well as international corporate experience. We are fortunate in our County Administrator Pro Tem for recognizing this expertise and recommending Pam Nichols for the Personnel Management slot on the Salary Commission. We are NOT fortunate in the Council decision to ignore an extraordinarily qualified person meeting all the criteria for one who does not.

That she is a woman should not matter. That she is not affiliated with members of the Council should not matter. That her husband was civic-minded and served as a Freeholder should not matter - pro or con. The Council owes it to the voters to choose the BEST qualified candidate for the slot - or be shamed for pettiness , self-interest, and/or antediluvian sexist values.

Nancy Lind
Friday Harbor, WA 98250

(The following was sent in by Sondra Bayley of San Juan Island)

To the Editor:

Pam Nichols was recently rejected by the County Council from serving on the Salary Commission. She was the most qualified of the applicants, (as evidenced by being selected by the County Administrator Pro Tem) having had a career in personnel that culminated in a position as VP. Human Resources. Although no reason was given for her rejection by the County Council, one presumes it was because her husband, Charlie Bodenstab, was a freeholder and has been a strong proponent of holding the Council to the provisions of the new Charter government.

One could envision Pam receiving the following rejection letter:

Dear Mrs. Charlie Bodenstab:

We are sorry to inform you that we have vetoed your appointment to the salary committee. As Charlie Bodenstab's spouse, I am sure you could have brought to the committee much of his wit, wisdom and intelligence. Sadly, those are just the qualities of which we are over-supplied at the moment.

Mrs. Bodenstab (or if we may be so bold, "Mrs. Charlie"), we have no wish to cause you pain. It is merely that we would not want you to bother your pretty little head with all of these pesky details like how much we should be paid. Some claim that we do not recognize you as a person in your own right!

Mrs. Charlie, we hope you don't believe that, because you obviously, as Charlie's wife, have a very clear identity in our minds. I am sure you have your own wit, wisdom and intelligence to offer, and believe us, we think the committee would have been well-served by your presence, as we don't think it yet has any blondes on it. (By the way, did you hear the one about the blonde who... oh, never mind, we'll tell it to you the next time you appear before us.) Alas, we think you are better served by serving your man, as the Good Lord intended.

Regretfully yours,

The County Council

Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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