BF to start over search for golf manager
Bonners Ferry city council members are pictured at the Oct. 24 meeting. Pictured, from left, are Val Thompson, Mayor Rick Alonzo and Adam Arthur.
(Photo by EMILY BONSANT)
Hagadone News Network | November 4, 2023 1:00 AM
BONNERS FERRY — At the last Bonners Ferry City Council meeting, the board voted to start over in its search for a new golf course manager. Tuesday at a special meeting, they discussed how to make that happen.
The position is being filled due to Ralph Lotspeich retiring after more than 20 years of filling the position as an independent contractor.
Councilor Val Thompson asked how did the process get so far as the golf committee interviewing prospective candidates when a motion stipulated the committee would “select the method of contract” and not recommend an applicant.
At the Aug. 1, council meeting City Administrator Lisa Ailport informed council that the request for proposal for the golf manager position had been posted on the city website.
At the time, Councillor Rick Alonzo said he thought the committee’s recommendation would come to the city council for approval. A copy of the RFP was provided to each council member, as listed in the meeting minutes.
Councilor Brion Poston and member of the golf committee said the RFP was for a pro golfer or a groundskeeper. Like Lotspeich, the position is for one person who can run the whole golf course.
The hiring process has come under scrutiny since the resignation of former Mayor Dick Staples, who stepped down Sept. 22 due to Idaho’s nepotism laws. Staples’ son Ben was among the candidates for the golf manager position and allegedly was the recommendation for the golf committee.
Council members said the board never approved the RFP or the hiring process.
Thompson said she hadn’t been informed that the committee had made a recommendation for the position until Staples announced his resignation because of the decision.
Staples is unopposed for Bonners Ferry mayor in November and, under Idaho Code, could assume the role in January if he does not resign for the upcoming four-year term. He announced his resignation of his current term the day of the deadline to pull his candidacy for the next term.
Staples had time to pull his candidacy and take his name off the ballot, Thompson said. She said she and the rest of council do not know the process that the committee went through to recommend a candidate because council was not part of the process.
“We have to review the process, because the process is in question,” she said.
Golf committee chair Steve Nelson said his job was to help form the committee, whose role was to make a recommendation and not hire a candidate. He also went through every member of the golf committee and their experiences in business, the military and hiring experience, to show they had the knowledge to be on the committee and are more than golf enthusiasts.
Thompson said it's not about who was recommended as a candidate, but how the recommendation came about. Knowing the people on the committee and their experience, Thompson said she is not questioning their motives.
However many in the community are.
“We keep rehashing the past,” said Councilor Ron Smith. “I didn’t know what happened as a name never came up and we were never recommended a candidate.”
Councilor Adam Arthur said that the contract for the golf manager should be looked at and updated in response to comments that the contract would not be appealing to applicants.
Thompson agreed, adding that the council and city attorney need to approve the contract and make sure it complies with Idaho law.
In order to apply to the position, the golf committee required an applicant to complete a request for proposal. An RFP is a document that a business, nonprofit, or government agency creates to outline the requirements for a specific project.
The problem with using an RFP, rather than another method of seeking applicants, such as a job posting, it is a very specific legal process.
“What was called an RFP [in the original job posting and candidate process] wasn’t legally one,” said Andrakay Pluid, city attorney.
City staff, including the city attorney and city administrator were requesting direction from the council on how to proceed with starting the hiring process, especially since they had been told to not participate in the previous process.
When asked who had told her to not participate in the previous hiring process, Pluid said Staples had privately requested she not participate.
“So when we [staff] ask what our role is, we need direction,” Pluid said to the council.
Mayor Rick Alonzo said Pluid and the city administrator Lisa Ailport need to be involved in the process.
Thompson said every member of council should be involved with the hiring process in order to spread the blame for hiring the next golf manager and not place the blame on one person and thereby supporting city staff.
The council went over a two-prong approach on how to proceed with filling the position.
They agreed unanimously that the Mirror Lake Golf Course manager position would be an independent contractor structure and directed staff to submit a call for applicants with input from the current golf contractor, mayor and city council.
The council could have leased the golf course or put maintenance and management in charge of city staff, but though both options were not ideal for the city and staff time.
The council tabled the decision to appoint a new committee and recommend a golf course manager.
Arthur said at this time he did not feel comfortable setting up a committee to assist with the hiring process.
The current golf committee has not been disbanded, due to no motion being made. Members of council said they did not wish to disband the committee at this time if a committee is needed throughout the hiring process.
Pluid said the decision to disband or appoint a committee did not need to be made at the current meeting.
“We have a lot to do before going forward with hiring,” she said.
During public comment before the meeting community members gave their insight and knowledge of filling positions using a national search. Others commended the council for their openness and willingness to fix the mistakes that had been made in the earlier process of filling the golf manager position.