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All should get opportunity at public jobs

We have no reason to believe that Andy Frost III and Robin Lees won’t do a good job as new part-time managers for the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.

Further, we are pleased to see a decision to replace an outgoing full-time EMA director with full benefits, instead with two part-timers who, undoubtedly, are very familiar with the needs and operations of the county’s emergency operations. The change brings an annual cost savings of more than $25,000.

Last week, commissioners voted to hire existing Austintown fire Chief Frost III as part-time director and former Youngstown police Chief Lees as part-time deputy director at the county’s Emergency Management Agency, replacing former director Dennis O’Hara. O’Hara left for a new job in Sarasota, Fla., last month after serving as Mahoning EMA director 14 years.

The agency is responsible for mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery for major emergencies and disasters, such as floods, tornadoes, chemical spills, blizzards, droughts and terrorism, according to the agency’s website. It is also the lead agency established by the county commissioners for Homeland Security funding, training and operations.

Yes, it’s hard to argue that a longtime police and fire chief aren’t a good fit for handling the challenges that come with directing emergency management.

But here’s the rub.

These positions were filled without any public advertisement of the opening. Beyond that, these positions, in fact, were created and molded to fit the two job candidates, making it appear suspiciously like favoritism. That’s a philosophical problem, especially when hiring for a position paid with public funds.

Indeed, commissioners should be much more aware of the fact that someone — whether in the local community or even outside our region — might be interested and just as qualified or even more qualified. Frankly, when it comes to hiring at every taxpayer-supported entity, everyone should have equal knowledge and therefore an equal opportunity to apply for the openings. Qualifications and jobs requirements always should be posted and advertised publicly.

Further, by hiring Frost and Lees without so much as a glimpse at what other job candidates exist, the county has filled the posts with two men who either currently are working full-time in another public post or have retired from public employment. We consistently have used this space to oppose the practice of “double dipping” in public employment because we believe it slams the door on opportunities for any new up-and-coming job candidate with fresh blood and new ideas.

We are disappointed with the Mahoning County commissioners’ decision to move forward with these hirings without ever giving anyone else a shot to apply.

editorial@vindy.com

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