The county commission is considering 10 candidates to represent Martha’s Vineyard on the Steamship Authority board. To say this is an important decision is an understatement: The person will be the Island’s voice to the “lifeline,” able to get the direct attention of SSA management.
We’re concerned with the process not being well thought out.
Commissioners interviewed nine of the candidates in a three-hour session (think speed dating, or worse, some of those early Democratic debates) that made it difficult for them to delve deeply into the individuals applying for the position. They interviewed a 10th candidate separately.
We think there should have been a process in place to weed out some of the marginal candidates, either by a subcommittee reviewing résumés and cover letters (standard practice in the business world), or through this interview process. That begs for follow-up interviews where commissioners can dig deeper, for a more informed approach for the selection.
We were happy to see that Leon Brathwaite, a member of the county commission vying for the representative’s seat, came to the right conclusion and recused himself from the other interviews, and will not vote on his own candidacy. Initially, Brathwaite said he was cleared by the state Ethics Commission to participate in the process as a candidate because there is no compensation for the position. The commission would neither confirm nor deny that for us.
While it’s true that the job being vacated by Marc Hanover comes with no paycheck, it does have its share of perks. According to the SSA, those perks are commensurate with SSA employee travel and parking benefits. Board members travel on SSA vessels for free, as do their spouses and children. If a person is on the board for three years or more, that benefit becomes permanent. The only exception is the Iyanough, the fast ferry that travels between Hyannis and Nantucket. Board members must pay half the passenger fare for that ferry. For reservation or standby vehicle passage, board members receive half off the excursion rate, as do their spouses. Whenever a board member is traveling for SSA business, vehicle passage is free. Board members enjoy free parking at the SSA’s Palmer lot for the duration of their time on the board.
Those are some lucrative benefits for the volunteer job.
We asked Brathwaite if he told the ethics panel about those perks when he got his go-ahead to participate. He never responded. We would hope at some point his colleagues on the county commission ask him that pointed question, if his candidacy is to be seriously considered.
Which leads us to our next point. It’s not too late for the commission to schedule a follow-up meeting with two or three finalists for the position. They can use the information gleaned from their earlier interviews to weed out some of the candidates and drill down into details to choose the next representative of the Island for the SSA.
There appear to be some solid candidates based on our interviews with them and our review of their résumés, cover letters, and experience. And there are a few candidates that never should have gotten to the point of an interview, because a screening process would have weeded them out as not as qualified as other candidates.
The county commissioners owe it to the public to show that this process was done thoroughly and thoughtfully. As of now, they’ve done nothing to demonstrate they’ve done their homework, which is disappointing with a position that’s so important to the public they serve.