Konop to stay on LCIC search committeeWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | email@example.com
Commissioner Ben Konop sees no conflict in leading the search to find the Lucas County Improvement Corporation’s (LCIC) next CEO despite his attempts to end the county’s relationship with the economic development agency.
“I’m willing to keep up the fight to bring change and accountability to the agency,” said Konop, who heads the 18-member team to find a permanent replacement to lead the LCIC.
“If I just step down, we’re just going to get more of the same,” he said.
The search committee should submit for approval the name of one candidate to the LCIC’s executive committee to replace Matt Sapara, the agency’s interim director, Konop said. Should that not happen, Konop said he does not want to be part of the hiring process, even hinting at the possibility of moving to disband the search committee.
“I don’t think the LCIC’s track record should allow it to again pick its own CEO using taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.
However, at least one member of the search committee said he feels the commissioner has delayed finding a new CEO for the LCIC by constantly requesting information from the agency and failing to schedule meetings to identify candidates for the position.
“I think it’s been delayed significantly beyond what I consider to be acceptable,” said Tom Uhler, a member of the search team and the LCIC executive committee. “We’ve just not had meetings to really consummate the action of going through the search process.”
Konop scheduled a search committee meeting for April 23, but was forced to cancel it because proper notice was not given to comply with the Ohio Open Meetings Act. At press time, another meeting was set for April 28.
Uhler, president of environmental testing firm TTL Associates Inc., said he sees Konop’s open criticism as a conflict.
“It’s hard to imagine [Konop] can criticize the organization he’s in charge of leading the search for a new leader,” Uhler said.
Uhler accused Konop of trying to rescind the LCIC executive committee of its power to select the organization’s next head.
“It’s up to the board to make that selection,” Uhler said.
Joel P. Epstein of Waverly Partners LLC, the firm the LCIC commissioned to conduct the CEO search, said his company would identify perspective candidates it would recommend for the search committee’s review. Epstein said his firm does not comment on ongoing searches.
Konop said because the committee that selected the LCIC’s last permanent CEO, Shawn Ferguson, include five board members, the current search team should be able to operate as independently as possible. Ferguson resigned from his position in October to avoid being fired.
“The whole idea of me being on the search committee was to bring some change to the agency and new direction,” he said.
Konop continues to closely monitor the LCIC because county tax dollars fund most of the agency’s approximately $670,000 budget for 2008, he said. Though his fellow commissioners — Democrats Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak — voted against his resolution to sever the county’s ties to the LCIC, Konop said he believes he shares the public’s sentiment.
“The public is against continued taxpayer subsidization of the LCIC,” Konop said. “I don’t sense the public feels I should just go with the flow, because the flow hasn’t been going too well for Lucas County,” he said.
Another search committee member, Steven Weathers, president and CEO of the Regional Growth Partnership, said he believes top candidates for the job should want to meet with the area’s most vocal politicians, Konop included. He said success in the position would be found by learning to work with local political leaders while reaching economic development goals.
“Whenever you get public money, there’s politics,” Weathers said.
Konop said he’s trying to break the status quo that has hindered the region’s economic development efforts.
“I wouldn’t be living up to my oath of office if I let [the LCIC] hire some unqualified political friend,” he said.