The selection process for members of volunteer boards and commissions in Oro Valley has been severely but not irreparably damaged.
As a participant in the process on both sides of the table (interviewee / interviewer) numerous times dating back to 2000, I believe I have sufficient experience to offer an objective and informed opinion on the subject. My most recent dip into the selection process pool was in the past two months. Therefore I believe that my observations are current.
I believe the root cause of the problem is political partisanship on the part of some of the town council members and the acrimony associated with it. You see, one of the three- member interview team for boards and commissions is the town council liaison assigned to the board or commission. The town council member of the interview team is solely responsible for recommending candidates to serve to the remaining members of the council for final approval. Therefore, when our elected town council officials are so intimately involved in the interview, selection and approval process, there will be political pressure not only from within, but from their constituent base who have supported them (both financially and in-kind) to appoint individuals who are philosophically aligned to the town council liaison. Unfortunately, it has now taken over the process.
The boards and commissions are established to act as an unbiased citizen review of issues. It is a citizen-based review of code compliance and public acceptability before the issue reaches the full town council. It is a process where a (depending on the issue) public hearing(s) is / are provided for citizens to express their support or opposition, and for the members of the board or commission to eliminate, or recommend conditions to mitigate, objections that may have arisen from the town staff or public hearing(s) process. In most instances, the issue is then referred to the elected town council for final review and approval or denial. The board of adjustments is the exception to some of this process but the selection and retention criteria remain the same. All members of all boards and commissions serve at the will of the sitting town council.
The key words in the previous paragraph are “unbiased citizen review.” In order for this to become a reality, you must have a representative cross-section of the community serving. But more importantly and, in my opinion, much more to the point, you cannot have elected officials running to one another lobbying to get their cronies appointed to the boards and commissions for the sole purpose of tilting a board or commission toward their own political and / or personal philosophy. Unfortunately, this happened repeatedly during this most recent cycle of interviews.
To remove all bias in the selection process you cannot have different questions be posed to different candidates. I was asked a question by the town council liaison during my P&Z interview that was not asked of any other candidate. At least, I sincerely hope it was not.
If we wish the boards and commissions to review, evaluate and make unbiased recommendations to the town council, then we must take bias out of the selection process. The candidates for selection should be interviewed and selected by non-elected individuals. They should be selected solely based on their qualifications (which may be set by the town council), the basis of their ability to serve and a determination of their ability and willingness to deliver an impartial recommendation or determination that is representative of the charter or charge of the board or commission on which they serve.
This is not happening in our wonderful town, and the citizens are the eventual losers.