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Letter: Department reputation damaged after debacle


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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Jim Hartsook

Columbus

To the editor:

I rather enjoyed Mayor Kristen Brown’s parsing of words in the May 14 Republic:

“Since I’ve been in office, I’ve not terminated one mayoral appointment or asked one mayoral appointment to resign.”

I was one of her appointments who was not reappointed after signing a letter of concern about the reasons for the removal of Ben Wagner, Columbus Parks and Recreation Department director. In fact, I was notified of that fact after the letter was printed via email from Brown. True, I was not terminated in the midst of a term or asked to resign.

“We work together, we compromise and often times make decisions one another doesn’t agree with, and frequently aren’t even informed of until after the fact, but we move forward in all of those departments. There is no politics, there is only progress.”

It is certainly within the mayor’s right to appoint a mouthpiece or like-minded individual, but all appointments are political. If not, why was I not reappointed? I believe I was the only member of the parks board who has a degree in this field (sports enterprise management) and had previously worked within the department. I would think you would want members who have a passion for the organization they donate their time to.

“As public servants, it’s especially important that we not operate in an echo chamber. Rather than eliminating viewpoints, I hope that in the future we can work on better understanding one another’s viewpoints and build relationships based on mutual respect and trust.”

Why did we never meet to discuss concerns about the department? I saw Brown at two parks board meetings during my almost two years on the board. The first one where she swore me in and the other when she urged us not to approve the bathroom/concessions renovations at Hamilton Center. Communication from the mayor was limited and always electronic.

As a member of the board, we received a very condescending email (my perspective) from Brown last budget year (2013) after her attempt to remove parks board control of the non-reverting fund failed. She never responded to my suggestion for a face-to-face meeting. I was also notified via a forwarded email of the park director’s removal. These seem like important enough discussions to warrant a meeting prior to action. I think it is hard to build a relationship without contact or communication.

“It’s in the community’s best interest that, even if at times we disagree and decisions are made that do not go our way, we live with those decisions and we all stay at the table in order to continue moving forward.”

I only wish this were true. You would have to be delusional to believe this is how this administration operates. Seeing so many decent people come and go through City Hall, I am left to perceive that dissenting opinions are not welcome.

The worst part about this is that the reputation of the parks department is damaged by this whole ridiculous situation. Instead of worrying about funding the director’s position, we should be concerned about who would want it and if they want it, how desperate must they be? Why would we want them in charge of such important assets?

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