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City Council narrows pool of candidates

BY CHELSEA BOULRISSE - cboulrisse@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash City Council has made a preliminary decision in regards to who will hold the two open seats on the Wabash City Schools (WCS) Board of Trustees. The decision will be subject to a vote during the Council’s next meeting on Dec. 11.

City Council member Bryan Dillon, who also serves as liaison for the WCS board, confirmed on Wednesday that an “informal decision” had been made following Tuesday evening’s candidate interviews to narrow the pool of six applicants down to two.

The six candidates for the position were: Tony Pulley, Rob Kelscheimer, Kipp Cantrell, Kriston Petruniw, Kimberly Pinkerton and Mary Ann Tait.

On Tuesday evening, as described by City Attorney Randi Zimmerman, all seven council members attended an executive session meeting during which the interviews were held. While the interview was moderated by Dillon, every council member was able to ask questions.

After each candidate was interviewed individually, the Council then discussed which candidates would be the best fit for the City Schools’ board positions.

“The main things they were discussing were the experience that they were bringing to the table, their background, basic qualifications,” Zimmerman said. “And based on background and experience, whether or not they would be a good fit for the board.”

Zimmerman advised the Plain Dealer on Friday afternoon that the two candidates who were selected to be on the “short list” for the position were Pulley and Kelscheimer. Pulley currently serves as president of the Crossroads Bank Investment Center and Kelscheimer is the manager for inside sales at Ford Meter Box.

The Council’s decision is not final, however. The Council is expected to discuss each candidate and explain its decision before voting during the next City Council meeting on Dec. 11, Zimmerman explained.

But the Council may have violated open door law by conducting the interviews in private. It is typically understood that governing bodies tasked with making appointments to public boards are to conduct interviews for such positions in public, but the City Council has appointed school board members without holding public interviews in the past.

Zimmerman spoke with Public Access Counselor Luke Britt on Friday regarding the matter and she believes that the City is in the clear, but just to be safe Zimmerman said that the Council will hold off on a final decision until its public meeting.

Britt advised the Plain Dealer that there was, in fact, a violation, but there wasn’t much that could be done to redo the process. Moving forward, the City is expected to be more transparent when interviewing school board candidates in the future.

Zimmerman said the City Council is taking Britt’s advice to erase any concerns about a lack of transparency.

“Our whole goal since Scott Long became mayor is to be transparent,” Zimmerman said. “We’re going to do everything by recommendation of the public access counselor.”

In order to rectify the situation and ensure transparency, per Zimmerman, the agenda for the City Council’s meeting on Monday, Dec. 11, will include time for the Council members to share with the public what discussions were held and what led to the selections of Pulley and Kelscheimer as new potential board members.

“We’re going to have an open discussion as to why four out of the six candidates were not selected and why the two on the short list are remaining,” Zimmerman said. “So there’s no indication of the City being anything less than transparent.”

Dillon confirmed on Wednesday that all of the candidates as well as WCS Superintendent Jason Callahan had been notified on the informal decision via phone calls. Zimmerman stated on Friday that someone would contact the candidates and superintendent again to inform them of the recent discussions and how the Council will proceed at its Dec. 11 meeting.