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Utility board member criticizes GM search process

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In the wake of the selection of the general manager search committee by the executive committee of the Board of Public Utilities, board member Dan Scott has expressed dissatisfaction with the process.

General Manager John Twitty announced last week he will retire in June.

The board's executive committee on Dec. 7 selected for the search process Chairman Patrick Platter of Neale & Newman; Vice Chairman Tom Rankin of Sperry Van Ness/Rankin Co. LLC; Secretary Mike Peters of St. John's Health System; Assistant Secretary Tom Finnie, retired; former board chairwoman and current board member Lisa Officer of Officer CPA Firm LLC; and former board chairman and current board member Mark McNay of SMC Packing Group.

The executive committee consists of Platter, Rankin, Peters and Finnie.

Following the announcement, Scott of Jericho Development Co. today wrote an e-mail to Platter, Officer and Twitty, which also was forwarded to several CU employees, community leaders and media outlets.

In the letter, Scott said he and other board members were left out of search committee proceedings, including an invitation to the search committee selection meeting and inclusion on the committee itself.

"Whether it was fully intended or not, the process has resulted in a general manager’s search committee that epitomizes an abuse of power and process," he wrote. "It is difficult for me to believe that the board executive committee would self-appoint themselves to the general manager’s search committee and not consider it a conflict of interest."

In response to the letter, Platter told Springfield Business Journal the choices for the search committee were appropriately made and did not represent any such conflict.

"I don't see how it can be," he said, noting that the selection of the chairman and the vice chairman was a nod to the future of CU while the selection of two past chairs provides a solid foundation. "It's not a matter of a conflict of interest, it's a matter of identifying people that you can work with."

The selection of six of the board's 11 members for the search committee, Scott wrote, represents a majority of the board, giving the five remaining members a minority voice in the process.

Scott also said he had requested that the executive meeting be open to the entire board and that the search committee include all board members. He said those requests were ignored.

"Some board members were not invited, while others were," he wrote. "This is like a bad episode of 'Survivor.'"

Platter said the entire board had ample time to discuss the search committee policies, as it was discussed in the October meeting and again in the November meeting as a matter of board governance. Selecting general managers is one of the board's primary duties.

Platter said the review of board polices was done prior to Twitty's retirement announcement.

"(Scott) at least had a full month to voice his questions before we ever implemented (the search committee)," Platter said. "I have to say that I'm very disappointed with both the content and tone of the correspondence that he sent this afternoon.

"At times when you're in volunteer public service, you have to decide whether you're going to work with others to get things done or whether you're going to go for headlines."

The other board members who were not selected for the search committee are Krystal Compas of Drury University, Brian Hamburg of Hamburg & Lyons LLC, Brooks Miller of Jordan Valley Community Health Center and Dianna Parker of Ozarks Technical Community College.

Parker said she shares some of the opinions Scott voiced in his letter, including concerns with the executive committee.

"It's not that I don't trust them," she said. "They're all very intelligent, trustworthy people who have the best interest of the community in mind."

The problem, she said, was that the invitation to be on the search committee was not extended to the full board.

Platter said it is unclear whether more board members would be added to the committee.

"The search committee operates as a service of the board and under regulation of the full board," he said, noting all board members will make the choice of hiring the next general manager. "The search committee will look for applicants.

"If anything, the board policies are far more inclusive than what we had when previous general managers were hired."

As to Scott's next move, he said by telephone today that he'll wait and see.

"The appropriate thing to do is just to see what kind of response I get from leadership, the board and CU staff and their willingness to open up this process to everyone I believe is intended to be a full part of it," he said.

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