Is history repeating itself? It certainly seems to be the case.
The decision Wednesday to hire Brittany Walker as city attorney came as no surprise.
After an extensive and expensive — $47,000 for the combined city attorney and city manager — search, City Council once again turned the temporary acting city attorney position into a permanent job.
In September 2017, now-fired attorney Steve Morris was hired after serving as acting city attorney for roughly three months. (He also was on staff in the city attorney’s office since 2012.)
Then, as now, the hiring of a new city attorney fits accusations of back-room deals that have plagued the city regardless of who is sitting at the council’s dais.
And once again, it appears that a decision about who to hire was made before interviews began.
Even applicants Christi Kindel and Stephen Smith questioned council’s sincerity about being open to candidates other than the acting city attorney during their interviews for the job.
Both had seen the March 23 council meeting to narrow down the number of applicants for the job when Walker received high praise from all the council members. Mayor Kiernan McManus said she “would be someone I would consider for the position,” Councilman James Howard Adams put her “at the top of my list,” and Councilwoman Claudia Bridges said that if she had to make a decision that day she would want Walker to continue in the job because she was impressed with the work she had done.
Claims of actions done in the “spirit of transparency” are nothing more than platitudes. Appearances matter. Just as they did before.
When Morris was hired, I wrote “City Council members had the opportunity to show those who have hurled accusations at them for having favorites … that things are not always what they appear to be. And yet … that’s what didn’t happen.” Again.
Walker has been in the position since October and appears to be doing an admirable job, despite her lack of experience. Experience that the other candidates had years of on their resumes.
To her credit, Walker’s interview with council members went well. She was poised and took time to compose her thoughts before carefully answering each of the council members’ questions. But so did Kindel, who interviewed for the position in 2017.
Walker’s score from the evaluation was the highest, 400 points higher than Kindel. Council members found her lacking in only three areas.
Smith, who seemed ill-prepared for his interview, was easily eliminated from consideration.
We admit there are some red flags in Kindel’s past, including communications with residents of Boulder City about municipal issues and some obvious issues in her relationships with co-workers that resulted in a temporary protection order and court interference.
It seems that in this case though, the choice was to go with someone who barely met the minimum requirements for the job, but was someone they knew and someone they had a relationship with.
When her final contract is presented — assuming she passes her background check — we hope that council members learned a thing or two from the last time a city attorney was hired. We encourage them to put the city first when coming to terms of employment.
While we have some issues about Walker’s previous attempts to restrict access to public documents and her inexperience, we were pleased to hear that she recognizes her shortcomings and would be willing to seek out advice and assistance from colleagues when necessary.
We hope our concerns are unjustified and wish Walker well in her new role.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.