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Big job merits wide search

After 30 years as St. Clair County administrator, Dan Maher should be hard to replace. But Board Chairman Mark Kern and the majority of the County Board prefer the easy way out: Promote an insider.

The board voted 20-5 to appoint Debra Moore, the grants department director, as the interim administrator. Maybe interim means that Kern and the board are planning a full-scale search for the best person to oversee the county and its $175 million annual budget. But if so, they haven’t shared that plan with the public. Of course, not sharing is the usual modus operandi in St. Clair County.

When a resident criticized Kern at the meeting for not putting information in the County Board’s packet about Moore’s qualifications. Kern’s response was that most people on the board know that information already. Never mind that longtime board member Craig Hubbard said he didn’t know enough about her background. What Kern meant was that he had enough votes to approve this appointment, so no need for further disclosure.

One thing county residents do know about Moore is that her tenure in the Grants Department has been controversial: The state found that the department discriminated against disabled people in a job training program, and that Moore retaliated against the employee who reported that discrimination. That alone is a cause for concern over moving her into this top post.

It’s also possible that Kern has been grooming Moore for this job for a long time and that she’ll do great managing county operations. Conversely, maybe he appointed her to a position he knows she can’t handle so he can justify getting rid of her.

Whatever the rationale, only in St. Clair County would such an important hire be handled so cavalierly.

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