Our view: Dispelling any ambiguity

July 26, 2013 10:02:55 AM



Since the Columbus City Council created a new position and handed it to mayor Robert Smith's campaign manager on July 2, there has been much discussion about The Dispatch's reporting on the subject. More accurately, there has been much discussion about The Dispatch's editorial position on the topic. 


Thursday, Smith broke his three-week media silence on the matter, on a local radio show, saying, "There are a lot of innuendos out there and it's coming from The Dispatch." 


We're not sure exactly what the mayor was saying. Reason dictates that if our reporting was in error, he would have been eager to discuss those errors with us. And we would be as eager to correct them. Over the past three weeks we've made numerous attempts to reach the mayor without success. 


Now, as always, we welcome the opportunity to be "set straight."  


As for "innuendo" in our editorial stance on this matter, we politely disagree. 


From the beginning, we've been unambiguously critical about how the whole affair was handled. By adding the proposal to create a new position to the agenda at the last possible moment, the council left the taxpayers (and even some members of the council) out of the process. There was never an opportunity for citizens to ask questions or state their views on the wisdom of the move. This was wrong and we have said so more than once.  


Instead, the council moved quickly to approve the new position and hire J5 Broaddus, a company owned by Jabari Edwards. We take issue with that not because we have any specific criticism of Edwards, but because we believe that all city jobs should be open to anyone who wishes to apply. 


And the mayor simply didn't move an associate into an open position that had already existed. The position was created and given to his former campaign manager without considering any other possible applicant. In some circles that's called political patronage.  


This is not the first time we criticized the hiring process of a taxpayer-funded entity. 


We were outspokenly critical of the Convention and Visitors Bureau when it ditched previously announced plans to conduct a broad search and instead chose Nancy Carpenter as director, the process by which Selvain McQueen was chosen police chief and how Dr. Martha Liddell was selected as schools superintendent. Our objection was not a vote against Carpenter, McQueen or Liddell, per se. It was, instead, a strong conviction that the best chance for hiring the right candidate comes after a thorough review of all options. In those cases, we don't believe that happened.  


The same principle applies in this case. 


We still have reservations about the wisdom of the changes the city is making. In our view, the council has simply added extra layers of bureaucracy.  


Those who support the change say it will save the city money. 


We remain skeptical.  


Those doubts, which we believe are shared by many citizens, might have been assuaged if the city had handled this proposal in a more open manner through a process that would have informed citizens of the reasons for the change, how those changes would be implemented and how those changes would benefit the city. In addition, opening the new position to all candidates would have greatly diminished the widely held belief that this was just a city-funded payoff to a friend of the mayor.  


None of that happened.  


The Dispatch can hardly be held responsible for that.