EDITORIAL: Respect the voters and hold off on hiring a new MWRD chief executive
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The closed doors have been getting a good workout over at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District this year.
Come out, come out, wherever you are, people.
The MWRD board is poised to vote to hire a new executive director on Thursday, just three working days before three newly elected commissioners — who will have to work with the new executive director — are seated on the nine-member board.
If that strikes you as an insult to all those who voted for the new commissioners, you are right.
Before the current commissioners go behind closed doors for an executive session to discuss the hiring, they should ask themselves: What’s the rush? Two of the commissioners about to leave the board were appointed to fill unexpired terms. Why not leave the decision up to commissioners who were actually chosen by voters?
This would be a good time for the agency to display an interest in open and transparent government.
It’s been just four months since the MWRD forked over $95,000 and six months of health insurance to its former executive director, David St. Pierre, who resigned without explanation five weeks after he quietly went on paid leave. During that paid leave, none of the commissioners would publicly explain what was going on at an agency that spends $1 billion a year and has 2,000 employees.
The MWRD, which handles stormwater management and sewage treatment, has progressed significantly from its scandal-ridden days up until the 1960s, when it was rife with payroll padding, no-show jobs, loafing, cheating, political favoritism and outrageous contracts. It’s working to become a leader on extracting resources from wastewater and has started to disinfect treated wastewater. But it has far to go if it is to become the effective, forward-looking environmental agency we need.
One way to get there is to hire a superb executive director, one who not only is an acknowledged environmental expert and leader but who also has the support of the board that will be in place after Dec. 4.
Put off the vote. Respect the will of the voters. Look toward the future.
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